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By Scott Gordon

This booklet examines the advance of the speculation and perform of constitutionalism, outlined as a political procedure during which the coercive strength of the country is managed via a pluralistic distribution of political energy. It explores the most venues of constitutional perform in historical Athens, Republican Rome, Renaissance Venice, the Dutch Republic, seventeenth-century England, and eighteenth-century the US. From its starting in Polybius' interpretation of the classical inspiration of "mixed government," the writer strains the speculation of constitutionalism via its overdue medieval visual appeal within the Conciliar move of church reform and within the Huguenot safety of minority rights. After noting its suppression with the emergence of the geographical region and the Bodinian doctrine of "sovereignty," the writer describes how constitutionalism was once revived within the English clash among king and Parliament within the early Stuart period, and the way it has constructed for the reason that then into the fashionable notion of constitutional democracy.

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Extra resources for Controlling the State: Constitutionalism from Ancient Athens to Today

Sample text

Bodin’s Re´publique ‘‘is, in a very real sense, an attempt at a general system of politics, and contemporaries were not far wrong in likening it to the Politics of Aristotle’’ (McRae, 1962, A9). 4. ‘‘In Bodin’s design,’’ notes Franklin, ‘‘the basis for comparing states, and explaining their schemes of public law, was to determine and describe the locus of sovereignty in each’’ (Bodin, 1992, xvi). Copyright © 1999 The President and Fellows of Harvard College The Doctrine of Sovereignty 21 Ex a m Co py Bodin broadened the traditional domain of legal scholarship in two respects: his strategy required that legal systems other than the Roman be consulted, and that the inquiry be diverted from examination of the laws themselves to the political system that generates laws.

Thus he construes the political system of England as one in which the Bodinian properties of absoluteness and indivisibility characterize the sovereign authority. The mid-Victorian readers of The English Constitution were most struck by Bagehot’s contention that the development of the Cabinet was the most important institutional change that had taken place in the English system of government since the Revolution of 1688. Bagehot regarded this recognition as his most significant insight. 33 The most glaring defect in the voluminous literature on English government, in Bagehot’s view, is its failure to appreciate the momentous import of the development of the Cabinet.

The literature I shall now proceed to examine is concerned not with the nature of sovereignty, but (accepting as given that there must be a sovereign authority in every stable state) what entity should be regarded as morally entitled to occupy the seat of sovereignty, or, what is in fact the sovereign authority in a particular state. There are a number of answers to the normative question that can be found in the literature, but the most important of these is the view that ‘‘the people’’ constitute the proper repository of sovereign authority.

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