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Arthur Ghins

Arthur Ghins

‘Public Opinion and Laissez-Faire in Benjamin Constant’s Political Thought’

Supervisor: Dr Chris Brooke


I work on the history of liberalism, with a strong focus on France. As an MA student, I was drawn to authors such as Staël, Constant, Guizot and Tocqueville through reading the early works of Marcel Gauchet and Pierre Rosanvallon. Nineteenth century French liberals, they argued, offered in the wake of the Revolution a particularly rich way of thinking about the constitutive tension between liberal values and democratic ideals.

My dissertation concentrates on the political thought of Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), with special attention to his ideas about public opinion. I show how Constant designed public opinion as an alternative concept, not only to sovereignty, but also, more specifically, to popular sovereignty, and explore the impact this had on his conception of the role of the state, representative government and constitutional engineering.

I completed a dual training in Law (BA, MA) and Philosophy (BA, MA) in Belgium, as well as an MSc in Political Theory at the LSE. I have been a visiting researcher at SciencesPo Paris, KU Leuven and the Centre de Théorie Politique at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

Beyond French liberalism, my research interests include republicanism, the political philosophy of the Enlightenment, religion and liberalism and the reception of post-revolutionary French authors by twentieth century political theorists (Carl Schmitt, Isaiah Berlin, Claude Lefort).


In Cambridge, I have supervised second-year undergraduates following the course in history of political thought c. 1700 – c. 1890 (POL8). In 2018-2019, I am teaching a third-year undergraduate seminar in legal theory at UCLouvain (Brussels campus) on historical critiques of human rights.

Key Publications

'Benjamin Constant on Public Opinion.' History of Political Thought. Forthcoming.

‘Benjamin Constant and the Politics of Reason.’ History of European Ideas, 44 (2), 2018, pp. 224-243.