2018 John McMenemy Prize
Winner: Benoît Morissette
‘Les fondements de la liberté et de la civilisation’: le rapport Durham, les institutions municipales et le libéralisme | Canadian Journal of Political Science, 50:4
Photo: Benoît Morissette (Université de Montréal)
Excerpt from jury report: Starting with Lord Durham’s bold affirmation that municipal institutions constitute the “foundations of liberty and of civilization”, this fine study in intellectual history proposes to revisit radical Jack’s political thought in order to unearth insights for contemporary reflection on municipalities’ place in the constitution. Against the view that liberalism inevitably tends to regard cities as mere extensions of central governments, Morissette shows that there is another articulation of liberalism that grants municipal institutions a much more substantive role in the cultivation of civic virtue and that celebrates a sharing of power among different groups as the necessary safeguard of liberty. This latter type of liberalism (a pluralist liberalism) is what Morisette sees in the thought of both Durham and his contemporary, Alexis de Tocqueville. Morisette’s article is a solid contribution to three different bodies of literature: 1) It complexifies the monolithic account of liberalism that is sometimes offered in contemporary debates; 2) it provides an important contribution to intellectual history, demonstrating the significance of municipal politics and local-level democratic practices in nineteenth-century liberal political thought ; and 3) it makes important claims about a neglected aspect of Canadian constitutional history, the city.