THE Course

The Constitution. In America, it's at the heart of so many political disputes.

But in other places, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, there isn't a constitution to guide debates at all.

Have you ever wondered why some countries have one and others don't? Constitutions didn't even exist several hundred years ago. How did political communities live without one?

Do you take the fact that we need constitutions for granted? What, if anything, stands behind a constitution and supports it? What happens to the worth of the written document when the original foundations are no longer there?

One famous French absolutist, Joseph de Maistre, believed that all modern constitutionalism is a sham.

He called for us to stop putting our faith in written documents and to return to something else. His attitude is far from ours, that's true. But if you've ever wondered about, or doubted, the inherent goodness of a written constitution, you should hear from an unapologetic critic who reminds us of another way.


Explore de Maistre's thoughts in this study of On God and Society.

You'll finish this course better able to understand why some countries today don't have and don't want a constitution. And you'll see why, for de Maistre, some countries are falling apart, despite their constitution.

Who was Joseph de Maistre?

De Maistre (1783-1821) was one of the most famous French counter-Enlightenment thinkers, a Roman Catholic monarchist and absolutist who despised the French Revolution and the modern political philosophers who helped make it possible, including Voltaire, Locke, and Rousseau.