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The Time of Popular Sovereignty

Process and the Democratic State

Paulina Ochoa Espejo

Publication Year: 2011

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

Over the years I have received institutional support for my research from El Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologı´a (CONACYT), the Institute of International Education, Johns Hopkins University, and the Erasmus Institute at the University of Notre Dame. I am particularly grateful to Yale University’s Department of Political Science for granting me a junior ...

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Introduction: The Time of the People

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pp. 1-15

Imagine a black-and-white photograph. Its coarse grain tells you that it is an enlargement of another picture. The photo depicts a man wearing a broad-brim hat. He gazes beyond the frame, raises his clenched fist, and opens his mouth: he may be shouting or singing. Now imagine a second photograph. This one zooms out from the first. The man remains the ...

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Chapter One: The Mob and the People in Mexico: A Historical Example of the Indeterminacy of Popular Unification

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pp. 16-26

How can you tell the people from a mob? For more than two hundred years, this question has gone hand in hand with democratic politics. Ever since Rousseau’s On the Social Contract, we have known that to establish the legitimacy of a democratic state you must first ‘‘distinguish a regular, legitimate act [of the people] from a seditious tumult, and the will of an ...

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Chapter Two: A Problem in Liberal Democratic Theory: The Indeterminacy of Popular Unification

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pp. 27-57

We saw that the people was nowhere to be found in nineteenth-century Mexico. This is no anomaly. Democrats and democratic theorists have not been able to find the unified people anywhere. It is perhaps for this reason that they have relied on a mixture of democratic and liberal arguments when seeking to justify the democratic state. Liberal democratic theory ...

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Chapter Three: Mechanical and Theological Conceptions of the People

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pp. 58-83

Democratic theories presuppose a demos, a people. But what is a people? Only a few theorists have focused on the concept.1 Yet democratic theory cannot afford to ignore the question of the people’s nature—at least if it is serious about dealing with the problems I have highlighted in the prior chapters. Bringing to light implicit assumptions about the concept of the ...

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Chapter Four: Dynamic Constitutionalism and Historical Time

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pp. 84-112

The indeterminacy of popular unification is a problem that arises when democratic and constitutional theories overlook change and movement. It becomes most salient when there is an incongruity between a constitution, which is said to represent the will of a people at a given moment, and the opinions of an actual, changing population. It is perhaps for this reason...

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Chapter Five: The People Between Change and Stability

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pp. 113-135

The conflict between popular change and legal stability generates important problems in democratic and constitutional theory. For example, should the constitution contain clauses banning popular movements that challenge the basic laws of the state? May people vote to secede or adopt a new constitution? Could the people make decisions that do not involve ...

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Chapter Six: Creative Freedom and the People as Process

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pp. 136-169

As I have argued throughout this book, you cannot legitimize the state by relying on the unified will of a people. The people and its will never unify: the people conceived as a collection of individuals is always indeterminate.This indeterminacy is clear in the unified-will legitimizations of democracy, since these attempts to legitimize democracy produce a vicious circle ...

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Chapter Seven: A Democratic People as Process

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pp. 170-195

A democratic people rules itself. This assertion contains the problem in democratic theory that has been this book’s main concern. The problem arises because it is mysterious how an aggregation of individuals could rule if it is not unified at some point. But how can the people be unified at any given time? As I have shown, the problem of indeterminacy of popular ...

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Conclusion: Radical Realism

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pp. 196-201

A people is a process, an unfolding series of events coordinated by the practices of constituting, governing, or changing a set of institutions. This conception helps democratic theory to deal with the logical problems that arise when it tries to legitimize the state. Specifically, it makes internally coherent and compatible the claims that a people can constitute an elec- ...


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pp. 202-212


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pp. 213-222

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271053707
E-ISBN-10: 0271053704
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271037974
Print-ISBN-10: 0271037970

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2011