Controlling the State: Constitutionalism from Ancient Athens to Today

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Harvard University Press, Jun 30, 2009 - Political Science - 412 pages

This book examines the development of the theory and practice of constitutionalism, defined as a political system in which the coercive power of the state is controlled through a pluralistic distribution of political power. It explores the main venues of constitutional practice in ancient Athens, Republican Rome, Renaissance Venice, the Dutch Republic, seventeenth-century England, and eighteenth-century America.

From its beginning in Polybius' interpretation of the classical concept of "mixed government," the author traces the theory of constitutionalism through its late medieval appearance in the Conciliar Movement of church reform and in the Huguenot defense of minority rights. After noting its suppression with the emergence of the nation-state and the Bodinian doctrine of "sovereignty," the author describes how constitutionalism was revived in the English conflict between king and Parliament in the early Stuart era, and how it has developed since then into the modern concept of constitutional democracy.

 

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A textbook for a class which finished today. History of constitutionalism from ancient Athens to some of its present incarnations - the American and British systems. Ancient Athenian and Roman ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
1 The Doctrine of Sovereignty
19
2 Athenian Democracy
60
3 The Roman Republic
86
4 Countervailance Theory in Medieval Law Catholic Ecclesiology and Huguenot Political Theory
116
5 The Republic of Venice
129
6 The Dutch Republic
166
7 The Development of Constitutional Government and Countervailance Theory in SeventeenthCentury England
223
8 American Constitutionalism
284
9 Modern Britain
327
Epilogue
358
References
363
Index
387
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Page 311 - The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society ; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust.
Page 313 - By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.
Page 9 - Power" (Macht) is the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests.
Page 313 - Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the Constituents.
Page 30 - That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants, and at all times amenable to them.
Page iv - In all governments, there is a perpetual intestine struggle, open or secret, between AUTHORITY and LIBERTY; and neither of them can ever absolutely prevail in the contest. A great sacrifice of liberty must necessarily be made in every government; yet even the authority, which confines liberty, can never, and perhaps ought never, in any constitution, to become quite entire and uncontrollable.
Page 289 - Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power. The taxes are a voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone.
Page 10 - Power corresponds to the human ability not just to act but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together. When we say of somebody that he is 'in power' we actually refer to his being empowered by a certain number of people to act in their name.

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About the author (2009)

Scott Gordon is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Economics and of the History and Philosophy of Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, and Professsor Emeritus of Economics at Queen's University, Canada.

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