Popular Sovereignty: The Classical View and a Revised Account

Departmental Seminar
Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 1:30pm
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Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 1:30pm to 3:10pm

You are cordially invited to the Political Science departmental seminar

"Popular Sovereignty: The Classical View and a Revised Account"

delivered by

Janos Kis, Professor, Department of Political Science and Department of Philosophy

Date: Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 13:30,

Venue: FT908.

Abstract: Popular sovereignty insists that the subjects of a constitution should have the final say on that constitution. The contemporary interpretation of this claim is, however, very different from its classical reading. The classical reading held that the sovereign people is a supra-constitutional entity having the power to terminate the constitution in force and to give itself a new constitution in a legal vacuum. When the sovereign people speaks, it speaks unconstrained by any binding rules, so the argument went. The modern reading, rather than endorsing the legal vacuum thesis, foresees a legally specified procedure and demands that procedure to satisfy certain normative requirements. The core of the modern view is that the constitutional assembly should be brought about by popular elections that are free and fair. Other requirements are also mentioned. The assembly should invite broad public participation to set its agenda. The debating and drafting of the constitutional text should take place in public. Finally, it is more and more widely accepted that the constitution as a whole should be subject to popular ratification in a referendum. My talk will not focus on the details of the procedural requirements. Rather, it will explore what the shift from the legal vacuum thesis to the view of a legally regulated procedure tells about the very idea of popular sovereignty.