Controlling the State: Constitutionalism from Ancient Athens to Today

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Harvard University Press, Jun 30, 2009 - Political Science - 407 pages
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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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User Review  - HadriantheBlind - LibraryThing

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


1 The Doctrine of Sovereignty
2 Athenian Democracy
3 The Roman Republic
4 Countervailance Theory in Medieval Law Catholic Ecclesiology and Huguenot Political Theory
5 The Republic of Venice
6 The Dutch Republic
7 The Development of Constitutional Government and Countervailance Theory in SeventeenthCentury England
8 American Constitutionalism
9 Modern Britain

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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 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 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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