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Justus Lipsius, political humanism and the disciplining of 17th century statecraft



Justus Lipsius (1547–1606) was among the most influential thinkers of the late 16th/early 17th centuries. His guides for action were highly influential in the establishment of moderate absolutism and what has been called the fiscal-military state across Europe. In this article I explore Lipsian thought in an International Relations context. Special attention is paid to his ideals of discipline, which were meant to order both the ruler and those that he ruled. Dignity, self-restraint and discipline were the recipes for the foreign policy of the prince, while the individual was subordinated to the purposes of the state, and taught to control his own life by mastering his emotions. If not a seminal thinker in his own right, it is necessary to understand Lipsius’ thought and influence to be able to fully understand the 17th century theoretical approaches to peace and prosperity and the relative discipline of early-modern statecraft.



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* An earlier version of this article was presented at the 47th annual ISA convention, San Diego, CA. Thanks for valuable comments are due to my fellow panellists, the discussants: Chris Brown and Richard Mansbach, and Iver B. Neumann as well as the anonymous RIS reviewers.

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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