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Strong ConstitutionsSocial-Cognitive Origins of the Separation of Powers$
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Maxwell Cameron

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199987443

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199987443.001.0001

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Literacy and the Invention of Constitutions

Literacy and the Invention of Constitutions

(p.52) 3 Literacy and the Invention of Constitutions
Strong Constitutions

Maxwell A. Cameron

Oxford University Press

The claim that the separation of powers emerges wherever text is used to coordinate collective action explains the uses of writing from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages. Writing is connected to empire and centralized rule but it also encouraged the development of independent courts. Legal codes illustrate the importance of writing in both Egyptian and Hebrew societies. With the spread of literacy in the Hellenic world, conscious theorizing about differences between the deliberative, judicial, and executive features of constitutions flourished, especially in the work of Aristotle and Plato. Roman law adapted and extended the use of text. Christianity provided another model of the construction of a people of the book, and struggles over the source of textual authority illustrate the differences between scripturalism and contractualism. In the colonial context, the scripturalism of Spanish conquerors clashed with indigenous cultures with catastrophic consequences.

Keywords:   Empire, scripturalism, contractualism, classical antiquity, Greco-Roman world, colonialism, Christianity

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