The Legitimacy of the People

Political Theory 35 (5):624 - 658 (2007)
In political theory it goes without saying that the constitution of government raises a claim for legitimacy. With the constitution of the people, however, it is different. It is often dismissed as a historical question. The conviction is that since the people cannot decide on its own composition the boundaries of democracy must be determined by other factors, such as the contingent forces of history. This article critically assesses this view. It argues that like the constitution of government, the constitution of the people raises a claim for legitimacy. The failure to see this is what makes many theorists run into the arms of history. They submit the legitimacy of the people to the arbitrary and asymmetrical forces of the present.
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