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The Paradox of ConstitutionalismConstituent Power and Constitutional Form$
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Martin Loughlin and Neil Walker

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199552207

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199552207.001.0001

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People and Elites in Republican Constitutions, Traditional and Modern

People and Elites in Republican Constitutions, Traditional and Modern

(p.107) 6 People and Elites in Republican Constitutions, Traditional and Modern
The Paradox of Constitutionalism

John P. McCormick

Oxford University Press

Utilising the works of the early 16th century Florentine republicans, Guicciardini and Machiavelli, this chapter focuses on a critical distinction between traditional and modern constitutions. In traditional constitutions ‘the people’ signifies not only the body politic but also the common people with a distinctive interest in ensuring their freedom from oppression by the patrician class who invariably exerted a disproportionate influence in government. In modern constitutions, by contrast, ‘the people’ is invariably treated as a unitary entity of formally equal citizens, with class-blind representative forms that tend to shield from view the reality of elective oligarchy. The chapter acknowledges the necessity of maintaining within contemporary constitutional arrangements the tension between the instituted power of elected (patrician) rulers and the powers of the common people to check their more reckless or restrictive projects.

Keywords:   Florentine republic, Guicciardini, Machiavelli, traditional constitutions, modern constitutions, the people, patricians, oligarchy

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