By Mikael Spång (auth.)

ISBN-10: 1137383003

ISBN-13: 9781137383006

ISBN-10: 1349480304

ISBN-13: 9781349480302

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Sample text

The ‘assembled people’ falls obviously into a kind of metaphysics of presence, demanding a reterritorialization of politics, centred in the always-present people. The strength of the Sans Culottes lasted only for a brief period. By autumn 1792, what remained of the assembled people were only those Constituent Power in the Eighteenth Century Revolutions 33 with enough time and resources to be actively engaged in politics. Also, the Sans Culottes were overpowered by the revolutionary government. They played an important role in paving the way for this government, but their relationship became racked by tensions.

It was considered paramount that the majority not find any application of its majority position in terms of constituent power. A majority might be a majority of citizens, but it would not be the people acting collectively to assert their constituent power. The people lose their political importance within the constitutional system. Instead, citizens – individually and collectively – engage in politics in an ordinary fashion. This means that constituent power comes to an end with the adoption of a constitution.

As James Madison argued in a letter to Thomas Jefferson: 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. (Cited in Wood 1969: 410) The majority of the people may press for and support laws that threaten rights, not the least the rights of property.

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Constituent Power and Constitutional Order: Above, Within and Beside the Constitution by Mikael Spång (auth.)

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