Front Page Titles (by Subject) Florentine Guilds and Republicanism - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4
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Florentine Guilds and Republicanism - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4 
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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Florentine Guilds and Republicanism
“Guild Republicanism in Trecento Florence: The Success and Ultimate Failure of Corporate Politics.” The American Historical Review 84 (February 1979): 53–71.
Florentine republicanism has generally been viewed by historians according to the fifteenth-century analysis of Leonardo Bruni. In this approach, civic virtue rested upon the existence of a powerful centralized state. Within the confines of the state, individuals' self-responsibility and development of political virtue was emphasized. This influential paradigm ignores the role of the guilds as social institutions of a more personalistic or corporate nature in the development of Florentine republicanism.
Throughout the Middle Ages, there were many forms of corporate organization, all of which were subsumed under the general term universitates. Among the most important of these were the guilds. These economic groups began to function as corporate personalities, decisions in them being taken by vote of the members. These came to play an important role in the government of Florence during the 1290s. Because of their fairly large numbers (there were 21 major guilds with 7,000–8,000 members) and political power, their consent was deemed essential in making political decisions. They became, in effect, the voice of the people. Their power continued to accelerate as the guilds federated, forming alliances for joint action.
The influence of the guilds in Florence was especially marked during the 1340s, when they settled several banking crises, In 1378, a detailed plan of government gave the guilds a major role in the city's government.
The aristocracy did not accept the guilds, viewing them as a threat to their own position. Aristocrats such as the chronicler Stefani argued that virtue could best be promoted by the patrician class. It is to this class that the government of the city belongs, he claimed, not to the guilds.
The guilds continued to stress the fact that decisions were to be taken by their members, and their rules called for frequent meetings. They proved in the longrun, however, unable to withstand the power of the aristocracy. The guilds, though moving in a democratic direction, excluded lower class non-guild subjects from vital political participation.