The first socialist

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maurvir Steamed meat popsicle
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https://aeon.co/essays/cesare-beccarias ... punishment

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On 12 April 1764, the citizens of Milan witnessed the brutal killing of Bartolomeo Luisetti. He had been condemned to death after being accused of sodomy. Luisetti was killed by asphyxiation and then burnt at the stake in front of the crowd. Throughout Europe, ruling elites believed that criminal justice had to be done and be seen to be done; and that criminal punishment had to be cruel so as to instil the fear of God in the people watching the horrific spectacle.

Cesare Beccaria witnessed the scene with horror. It was hard to believe that such cruelty could be regarded as a rational response. At the time of the event, Beccaria was only in his mid-20s, but already had strong political and philosophical views. Born in 1738, the first son of a prominent Milanese aristocrat, he was educated in a stifling Jesuit school in Parma. After studying law in Pavia, he returned to Milan where his eyes were opened by Montesquieu’s Lettres persanes (1721), or Persian Letters, an epistolary novel giving an outsider’s critical angle on Parisian customs. Beccaria entered the world of Enlightenment philosophy without hesitation; his lodestars were French and British intellectuals, and he was inspired in particular by reading Claude Adrien Helvétius, Denis Diderot, David Hume and John Locke.

In 1759, Beccaria became a member of the so-called ‘academy of fisticuffs’, a group of young Milanese aristocrats who rebelled against the oppression of the local elite, including their own families: the conflict was social and intergenerational. As they saw it, the interests of the few systematically trumped the interests of the many, and the laws were designed to increase the power of the privileged class. Their collaboration gave birth to a magazine called Il Caffé, a vehicle for reformist ideas. In 1762, Rousseau published The Social Contract, which provided Beccaria with an ideological framework: his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764) was published two years later, and 25 years before the French Revolution. Beccaria’s manifesto against cruel punishment spread swiftly through Europe, igniting radical reforms of repressive and coercive institutions throughout the continent.

Europe was at that time a profoundly hierarchical society, where a few privileged people ruled over the entire population with an arbitrary and unaccountable authority. Enlightenment philosophers took inequality to be the germ of social injustice. Beccaria had the ambition to radically reform his society, the institutions and the laws. It was an ambition shared by all Enlightenment thinkers in Europe, although the means to achieve that reform differed. France took the revolutionary path, while Milan engaged in steady reforms from within; Beccaria and the other pugilists were to play an important part in the administration of the city state.

European radical thinkers agreed that the Church was one of the strongest enforcers of inequality and subjection. Indeed, Italian political minds never ceased to be inspired by Niccolò Machiavelli’s central idea that Christian morality is incompatible with the morality of Civic Republicanism. The former is passive, and requires obedience to the established authority; the latter is active, and demands participation in the political affairs of the city. Only when the city was put first would institutions and laws reflect the interests of the whole society, and not just the vested interests of a few privileged ones.

Mindful of the interest of the many, Beccaria formulated a motto: la massima felicità divisa nel maggior numero (the greatest happiness shared among the greater number), which was subsequently adopted by the English utilitarian thinker Jeremy Bentham. Beccaria saw this maxim as a fundamental tenet of a new science, whose object was human society and whose name was ‘the science of man’, echoing Hume’s project in that phrase. Beccaria’s keen interest in mathematics and the sciences was channelled into the development of political economy and, soon afterwards, Beccaria was made chair of political economy in Milan, his first civic appointment.

Political economy for Beccaria was not just a tool with which to administer the state more efficiently; it was a Copernican revolution that explained the place of man in society, and the importance of reconceiving politics to serve the interests of any particular society. Political economy was intended to be the science of happiness, and aimed to replace religion as the guiding light of human behaviour. Beccaria was aware that great progress had been achieved in public matters through political economic reforms: trade replaced wars, print spread new ideas, and the relation between sovereign and subjects had been reconceived. But he also noted that little had been said and done about the cruelty and arbitrariness of criminal laws, the most immediate and visible display of brute force that had not yet been subject to rational analysis. He knew that it was not uncommon in those years to see people condemned to death and brutally ravaged in the public square with the intent of educating the citizenry.

On Crimes and Punishments was the first attempt to apply principles of political economy to the practice of punishment so as to humanise and rationalise the use of coercion by the state. After all, arbitrary and cruel punishment was the most immediate instrument that the state had to terrorise the people into submission, so as to avoid rebellion against the hierarchical structure of the society. The problem that Beccaria faced, then, was the simple fact that the elite had complete control of the law, which was a family business and a highly esoteric language that only the initiated could master. The path leading to the rational reform of penal law required a fundamental philosophical rethinking of the role and place of law in society.

Metacell Chocolate Brahma
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And yet here we are, still. OK, so maybe its not as bad as Renaissance feudalism, but its still the same issues generation after generation. I've always thought instilling the same fear of God into the wealthy ruling elite class (who are NOT and have never been believers in anything) is the way to go: one human sacrifice per equinox selected from the worst exploiters of the top 1%. Worst exploiter of human beings gets the chop in the spring, worst waster of the natural environment gets it in the fall.

As long as it was practiced consistently and publicly you can bet all those sick bastards would be scrambling to disavow themselves of their worst habits. Also, the joy and merriment as they all turned on each other to expose all the secret illegal activities that all the worse people were up to.
I think the Holy Roman Empire, despite its injustices and failings, created a working model of social institutions. One of the major reasons the American Revolution happened was to divorce business from the influence of the church. The old feudalism was far from perfect, but it at least insisted that every person from the highest to the lowest social status was owed a place in the world and that the lords and masters had a duty to look after their basic needs. If they didn’t, an uprising was justified. The peasants were allowed land and dwelling in exchange for a couple days work on the masters property. The cult of the individual and personal freedoms idealized in the new world came about to justify the abandonment of responsibilities business owners had to provide for the lowest and neediest in society.
Metacell Chocolate Brahma
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You didn't have to remind me that Middle Age peasants had greater rights than we do.
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The first socialist