The Spirit of the Laws by Montesquieu

The Spirit of the Laws

The Spirit of the Laws is, without question, one of the central texts in the history of 18th-century thought, yet there has been no complete scholarly English language edition since 1750. This lucid translation renders Montesquieu's problematic text newly accessible to a fresh generation of students, helping them to understand why Montesquieu was such an important figure in the early Enlightenment and why The Spirit of the Laws was such an influe...

Details The Spirit of the Laws

TitleThe Spirit of the Laws
Release DateSep 21st, 1989
PublisherCambridge University Press
GenrePhilosophy, Politics, Nonfiction, Classics, Law, History

Reviews The Spirit of the Laws

  • Roy Lotz
    I beg one favour of my readers, which I fear will not be granted me; this is, that they will not judge by a few hours reading of the labour of twenty years; that they will approve or condemn the book entire, and not a few particular phrases. Reviewing big, old tomes like this is difficult, partly because they cover so much ground, and partly because whatever there is to say about them has already been said. Yet I was often surprised by what I fou...
  • Briana
    This is almost as huge as Leviathan and possibly scarier...*EDIT*I love how Montesquieu makes DIRECT rebuttals. Locke, that dear old fellow, addresses Hobbes' arguments, but not Hobbes himself. Montesquieu says, "Hobbes says X argument. HE'S WRONG. I shall now show you WHY." To whoever wrote the immensely illuminating (and legible!) notes in my used copy: Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you.*EDIT*I would've given this 4 stars, but I...
  • Elaine
    Modern pundits and general yappers would do well to read more Montesquieu and less of whatever they are reading now -- if they are, in fact, reading anything at all.
  • Matt
    I’m not sure what can compare in the West to The Spirit of Laws before its publication in 1748. Sure, there were the Greeks. Plato’s Republic and Laws were extensive dialogues on constructing political systems. But those were primary intellectual exercises. The debate was more about the ideal rather than the practical. Plato made some comparisons of Athenian and Spartan systems, but he was not surveying systems, he was attempting to take what...
  • Mir
    Montequieu placed emphasis on reason as the guide for laws and society, but also respected tradition, historical precedent, and the "spirit of the people". Laws should be based on reason +customs and mores.3 forms of government correspond to size: despotic (large), monarchy (medium), republic (small). Despotism is sustained by fear (and thus is inherently corrupt and short-lived), monarchy by honor (class distinctions), and republics by civic vir...
  • Bertrand
    As for Rousseau I have to admit I started this lecture with some prejudice: whereas I mistakenly imagined Rousseau to be this half autistic failed novelist wearing rose-tinted glasses, I imagined Montesquieu to be somewhat his rigorous, legalistic counter-part (probably owing to my complete ignorance in the field of legal theory) bent on ossifying every well-meaning, politically correct and moralizing precept the Enlightenment might have produced...
  • Joe
    Have you ever been curious as to why we have certain laws and why they have the effects they have. That is what is covered in this book. It opens by talking about why he thinks humans established laws and civilization, then it discusses what he labels as the three main forms of government: Republics, Monarchies, and Tyrannies. While there are many different themes throughout the book, I think one of the main ones is that for a government to be su...
  • Xander
    I'm at a loss for words trying to describe my experience reading this book. The scope of this book is immense, the topics are so varied and the lessons one could (should?) draw from it are so numerous, that trying to explain it all would require another book of 700 pages. Nevertheless, I will try to describe some important points (while leaving many equally important ones out).Montesquieu starts of this book by explaining the importance of princi...
  • Christopher (Donut)
    Goodreads has linked "Defense de l'esprit des lois" with Montesquieu's magnum opus.The "Defense" is merely a pamphlet, a reply to one or two critics of L'esprit des lois. I can't say I read it easily, but I read it all (61 pp.) which is more than I could do when I first got it for Kindle (in 2012).This passage, I think, is as true today as it was in the 18th C., especially if one bears in mind which 'theologians' (i.e., upholders of orthodoxy) of...
  • Robert Owen
    “The Spirit of the Laws”, Montesquieu’s widely read and, in its time, highly influential treatise on the nature of government was one of the vegetables that I resolved to consume in 2015. I made it through half of the book, which is pretty good given that at about a third of the way through I realized that “The Spirit of the Laws” is to my list of books on Enlightenment political philosophy what Brussel Sprouts are to my list of least f...
  • Lee Walker
    Someone said this was almost as long and scary as Hobbes's Leviathan? Hardly. This book is a breeze to read if you have a good translation. Every chapter is between .5-2 pages at the most. It's all in bite-sized idea chunks. I have flown through 130 pages in just over a day. For a normal academic work I'd probably be on page 20 or 25 by now.My problem is that, to the modern reader, much of what Montesqiueu says is nonsensical. His ideas are also ...
  • Buciu Petre
    Magisterial ! If you want to build a civilization from scratches, this book should serve as guide. It is overly complex and its erudition obvious. Of course some of the opinions exposed here have not passed the test of time, especially his analysis concerning the impact of the climate on societies and customs. This and some other ideas scientifically in character may be outdated now but the vast scope of the work, its erudition, its empirical and...
  • Bob Nichols
    “The Spirit of Laws" (Britannica Great Books edition, 1952; Thomas Nugent, Trans.) is a long book. Montesquieu starts from his first principles. Unlike the laws of the Deity or the material laws of nature, man creates his own laws. As a physical being, man “is like other bodies governed by invariable laws.” But, unlike "brutes who are governed by laws of motion," man possesses a free will, although it is prone to error because, “as a sens...
  • Jimbo
    This monumental work is full of insight into how law comes into being and how and where it is useful in preserving order in society....It is rich in provocative thought ....These gems below I isolated from a single session with the text:“(R)eform by law what is established by law, and change by custom what is settled by custom; for it is very bad policy to change by law what ought to be changed by custom.”Nations are in general very tenacious...
  • Sergei Moska
    I feel like I need to justify giving an all-time classic text only two stars. The two stars doesn't reflect its importance or the depth of its thought. It reflects the fact that in spite of the very interesting and important arguments that Montesquieu makes - many of which being subtle and amenable to really interesting open-ended discussion - much of the book is a tough, tedious slog about mercantilism, and the history of the development of fief...
  • Nick Bond
    While the sections on the separation of powers in a civil government are deservedly revered, I found the majority of this volume to be a bit awkward. Montesquieu seemed to have a strong propensity for finding patterns where there (probably) were none and his justification for these conclusions often relied more on dubious examples rather than an actual explanation. He had some interesting ideas, but you'd probably be better off reading selected e...
  • Bap
    Ok, so I read this 35 years ago when I was in a master's program at LSE. It is long and long winded. Anti-cleric as I remember and there are moments that are memorable, though which ones I can't remember, , anti royalist, a plea for the enlightenment. This is like eating spinach, good for you but not something that you would run to if not assigned.
  • Johannes
    Back in the day when historians/political philosophers didn't shy away from embracing projects of enormous breadth and scope... This man also had the most phenomenal knowledge of the classical world. If you are at all interested in American democracy, it's founded in large part on his thought.
  • Adam Gossman
    One of the best books I have ever read and ever shall hope to read at least three more times in my lifetime... if only all books were only a slight fraction of the merit of this (and all of M's works I have read) book then I daresay I would never stop reading.
  • Amy
    A thick, but well researched book. Its impact on history alone grants it the 5 star rating. This particular edition was quite readable.
  • Joel Muinde
    So sublime and concise.
  • Richard Anderson
    A classic, but honestly the latter portions could be excised, or at least excerpted. Get a modern translation, despite the price.
  • Tschäff Reisberg
    Must read for any political junkie.
  • Nicholas
  • Onur Çukur
    He should have ended this work after first 15 chapter
  • Arno Mosikyan
    Some quotes and excerptsTo become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.Religious wars are not caused by the fact that there is more than one religion, but by the spirit of intolerance... the spread of which can only be regarded as the total eclipse of human reason.There is no nation so powerful, as the o...
  • Hồ Vũ
    A must-read for law students, this book provides interesting insights of one of the most notable thinkers of the Enlightenment Period.
  • Lee
    Earread as an audiobook. Not the best idea. Read 10%.