Ilia Chavchavadze – the Father of Georgian Liberalism on Private Property
While in Europe the famous English philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote his eminent On Liberty (1859) and perfected the teachings of utilitarian liberalism, in the East, namely in Georgia, which at that time was a part of the Tsarist Russian Empire, the great Georgian political and public figure Ilia Chavchavadze laid the foundations for Georgian liberalism. At the same time, Chavchavadze was a writer, poet, publicist, and a leader of national liberation movement. European affairs and values occupied a large place in his publicistics. In Georgia, in this periphery of the Russian Empire, he was the first to mention the concept of private property.
Ilia Chavchavadze (1837-1907) was a prominent representative and a leader of Tergdaleulebi. They were educated young Georgians most of whom were educated in St. Petersburg. Just for this reason, they were called Tergdaleulebi ("Tergi Drunk”, because they crossed the river Tergi to go to Russia). These Georgian students tried to arouse national self-awareness among Georgians and prepare society for national independence. Of course, it was not an incoherent national program, but inspired by European thinking. For “attempting to fill the minds with Georgian national identity also means Europeanization with its promise of common welfare and equal citizenship” (Reisner 2009: 44). Such thinking had a decisive influence on the liberal ideas and program of Ilia Chavchavadze.
Ilia Chavchavadze, like the English philosopher and economist Jeremy Bentham, was convinced that the main task of the public authorities was to provide maximum happiness for the citizens. The right to happiness is established in Ilia’s teaching under the influence of English social philosophy and political economy. At the same time, Chavchavadze was a strict follower of classical liberalism, which rejects any kind of state intervention in economic life. He was convinced that private property was a necessary and inseparable prerequisite for ensuring individual freedom.
For Ilia Chavchavadze, the key to solving social problems was the creation of the Georgian "third estate" - the national bourgeoisie. In his opinion, the development of bourgeois relations would contribute to the progress of economic and social relations. For Ilia, the economic base was the main support for the development of the state; He advocated the abolition of serfdom, after which land taxes should be reduced, and the peasantry should become landlords. From this point of view, the factor of free labor would be especially important under the conditions of private ownership (Keshelashvili 2018, 132). He deeply analyzed such economic categories as market, price, value, money, commodity, etc.
As an expert in political liberalism, Ilia Chavchavadze was well aware of the importance of private property: "Private property is still the cornerstone of [...] advanced life in countries all over the face of the earth"(Buadze 2017, 31; Chavchavadze 1997, 222). Later he emphasized the need to protect private property: “The inviolability of private property [...] is recognized as the cornerstone of the future, and everything that limits and suffocates this inviolability is hardly tolerated by law" (Buadze 2017, 31; Chavchavadze 1997, 223). Ilia was convinced that private property was the basis on which relations between people, and human freedom should have been based, private property should have regulated the rights and duties of individuals in society. Finally, Ilia Chavchavadze's liberal vision of private property can be summed up in his own words: “What belongs to others is my duty, what is mine is my right” (Chavchavadze 1877, 8).
Buadze, Teimuraz. “Christian Values and Socio-Political Arrangement of Georgia according to Ilia Chavchavadze”. Guli Gonieri 18, 2017: 24-42.
Chavchavadze, Ilia. Life and Law, Vol. VI, 1877.
Chavchavadze, Ilia. I say and cry it, Kutaisi, 1997.
Keshelashvili, Giuli. “Economic and Political Situation in Georgia during the Era of Ilia”. Globalization and Business 6, 2018: 131-134.
Reisner, Oliver. “Travelling between Two Worlds – The Tergdaleulebi, their Identity Conflict and National Life”. Identity Studies 1, 2009: 36-50.
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