Front Page Titles (by Subject) Sismondi and Liberty - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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Sismondi and Liberty - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Sismondi and Liberty
“Sismondi's System of Liberty.” Journal of the History of Ideas 40 (April-June 1979): 251–266.
The cosmopolitan Jean Charles Léonard de Sismondi (1773–1842) is a key transitional thinker between the ancien régime of the eighteenth century and the turbulent social, political, and economic forces of the nineteenth century. As an important late Enlightenment figure, Sismondi sought to preserve and extend human liberty, while correcting its abuses in an era of increasingly mass collective society and growing state intervention against individual initiative. Sismondi's own writings anticipated such reactions to the Enlightenment as romanticism, Historismus, and socialism.
A true cosmopolitan, Sismondi traveled widely from his native Geneva (where he imbibed his ambivalence towards popular sovereignty), and became familiar with French, Italian, Spanish, and British contemporary thought. He was especially influenced by William Robertson and Edward Gibbon. His work on constitutionalism was indebted to Blackstone's Commentaries and Jean Louis Delolme's Constitution de l'Angleterre (1771). Sismondi was lover to Madame de Stael, uncle to Charles Darwin, and teacher of Gian Petro Vieusseux, who was eminent in the Italian risorgimento.
Through his own personal experience with both liberalism and democracy, Sismondi rejected Rousseau's egalitarianism. He believed that such democratic liberty aimed at the sovereignty of an enlightened elite. This needed to be balanced by civic or negative liberty, the area permitting individual freedom of choice. Holding that there were limits to what a legislature could do, Sismondi tended to be skeptical of state-controlled virtue.
Sismondi is noteworthy as a precursor of social science, particularly political sociology. He stressed the influence of constitution and law in determining the character of peoples. A free constitution (a republic or constitutional monarchy as in England) would foster free, educated, virtuous citizens; a despotic constitution would stunt and denature humans. In the field of political sociology three of his most significant contributions are: (1) his analysis of changes in Italians since the end of the Middle Ages (He went beyond constitutional analysis, to discuss the role of religion and customs on national character); (2) his encyclopedia article “Prejudice,” which pioneered in the area of social psychology; and (3) his sympathetic treatment of the proletariat in the Industrial Revolution, a theme which influenced many later writers.