Mar 26 - Freedom Center Colloquium Series: Sarah Burns


Thu, 03/26/2015 - 12:30 to 13:45

On March 26th, Sarah Burns will be giving a talk as part of the Freedom Center Colloquium Series. Burns is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Rochester Institute of Technology. Her primary research interests are in political philosophy, American history, and American politics. The title of her talk is "Montesquieu's Doux Commerce: Promoting Capitalism To Encourage Peace."  (Abstract below.)

Thursday, Mar 26, 12:30-1:45pm, in the Kendrick Room at the Freedom Center, Marshall 280 (right above Paradise Bakery).  Feel free to bring lunch.

For further information, please visit the Arizona Freedom Center at


Scholars have recently started examining Charles Montesquieu’s theories of international relations discovering that he has a unique capacity to answer important contemporary questions in foreign policy. As both a classical liberal and a pluralist he engages with the tension between these two principles. While he clearly wishes to promote commercial expansion and political liberalization, he is also a strong advocate for respecting sovereignty and cultural diversity. He can thus help us understand how and when it is acceptable to value one over the other.

Montesquieu presents commercial activity as a means to increase communication among societies. Montesquieu calls this theory, “doux commerce,” and currently scholars refer to it as Capitalist Peace Theory. The theory goes as follows: As more nations engage in trade, the number of commercial goods increases. Commerce continuously expands and if countries facilitate economic freedom, this increases the standard of living domestically. Each commercial activity leads to more, and traders move from one place to another seeking new people to trade with and new goods to bring back to their country. Focusing on commerce has a three part objective for Montesquieu: reducing prejudices among people of different races, religions and ideologies; reducing the likelihood that states will resort to violence when disagreements between states arise and decreasing direct government control over commerce by placing power in the hands of private organizations that expand trade.


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