The Very Idea of Popular Sovereignty: “We the People” Reconsidered*: CHRISTOPHER W. MORRIS

Social Philosophy and Policy 17 (1):1-26 (2000)

The sovereignty of the people, it is widely said, is the foundation of modern democracy. The truth of this claim depends on the plausibility of attributing sovereignty to “the people” in the first place, and I shall express skepticism about this possibility. I shall suggest as well that the notion of popular sovereignty is complex, and that appeals to the notion may be best understood as expressing several different ideas and ideals. This essay distinguishes many of these and suggests that greater clarity at least would be obtained by focusing directly on these notions and ideals and eschewing that of sovereignty. My claim, however, will not merely be that the notion is multifaceted and complex. I shall argue as well that the doctrine that the people are, or ought to be, sovereign is misleading in potentially dangerous ways, and is conducive to a misunderstanding of the nature of politics, governance, and social order. It would be well to do without the doctrine, but it may be equally important to understand its errors. Our understandings and justifications of democracy, certainly, should dispense with popular sovereignty.
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DOI 10.1017/S026505250000251X
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References found in this work BETA

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
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Citations of this work BETA

Libertarian Natural Rights.Siegfried van Duffel - 2004 - Critical Review 16 (4):353-375.
Popular Sovereignty Facing the Deep State. The Rule of Recognition and the Powers of the People.Ludvig Beckman - forthcoming - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy:1-23.

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