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Res publica et gemeiner nutz. Observations à partir de l'espace germanophone (XIVe -XVe siècles)

Abstract : In order to avoid the teleological risk inherent in any quest for origins, this article proposes to contribute to the examination of two medieval forms that are usually associated with the notion of "res publica", without intending to link the latter and our own conception of the republic: the choice of these two forms was determined by the association that certain German historians have made of them, at the end of the 20th or the beginning of the 21st century, with the democratic or, at the very least, anti-lordship regime. These two forms are the notion of "gemeiner nutz" (literally "common profit") itself and a printed and xylographic placard from 1487, entitled "Der gmain nutz", whose detailed study shows how little this notion of "common profit" has to do with our current common understanding of the common good. The "gemeiner nutz" is in fact conceived in the first place as the antonym of the "eigen nutz" ("own interest"), and it is thus implemented in two specific argumentative logics: on the one hand, claiming the "gemeiner nutz" makes it possible to legitimize any changing of the tradition by clearing its author of any personally interested motivation and by challenging the oppositions to these new measures as manifestations of selfishness; on the other hand, the ability to renounce the "eigen nutz" is mobilized to legitimize the social order, the 1487 placard presenting all the dominant from this angle (as able to this renunciation), contrary to the dominated (peasants and craftsmen). Ultimately, this opens the way to a questioning of the medieval "res publica", being not so much a form of emancipation than but a form of collective social discipline.
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Joseph Morsel. Res publica et gemeiner nutz. Observations à partir de l'espace germanophone (XIVe -XVe siècles). Quaestiones Medii Aevi Novae, Instytut historyczny (Varsovie) 2015, Medieval Origins of the Republican Idea, 12th-15th Centuries, 20, p. 193-222. ⟨halshs-02554395⟩

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