Understanding the founding: the crucial questions

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University Press of Kansas, 2007 - History - 314 pages
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Over the course of the last century, scholars have furiously debated four questions concerning the Founders and their act of creation. Were the Framers motivated by their economic interests? How democratic was the Framers' Constitution? Should we interpret the Founding using philosophical or strictly historical approaches? What traditions of political thought were most important to the Framers? In Understanding the Founding: The Crucial Questions, Alan Gibson examines the preconceptions that scholars bring to these questions, explores the deepest sources of scholars' disagreements over them, and suggests new and thoughtful lines of interpretation and inquiry. Building on his previous work, Interpreting the Founding, which offers a synoptic overview of the competing perspectives that have informed modern scholarship on the Founders, Gibson now examines this same century of scholarship from the standpoint of the most important debates that it has generated. In evaluating the economic interpretation of the Constitution, Gibson establishes what has and has not been proven about the economic and social characteristics of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists and makes suggestions for future research. Gibson's analysis of the character of the original Constitution sets forth a complex and judicious view of the Framers' intentions regarding democracy, arguing that scholars have often disagreed, not because they have vastly different understandings of the Framers' aims, but because they differ among them-selves about how to define democracy. In examining the controversy over interpretive approaches, Gibson suggests a new synthesis of the insights of linguistic contextualists and philosophicalrationalists; and in revisiting the liberalism-versus-republicanism debate, he analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of alternative accounts of the interactions of multiple traditions in the political thought of the Founders. Gibson's incisive analysis brings clarity to these complex and sprawling debates and sheds new light on the institutional and intellectual foundations of the American political system. Urging us to move forward from a puerile affection for the Founders to a deeper understanding of their place in the history of political thought and a more balanced assessment of the strengths and limitations of the system that they founded, he also provides a provocative view of the proper role of the Founders' ideas today.

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Contents

Introduction
1
Empirical Analysis
15
Toward
46
Copyright

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