Popular sovereignty

2684 mots 11 pages
1 Popular Sovereignty
1.1 Introduction
Historical background
The modern meaning of sovereignty (but not popular sovereignty) was introduced by Jean Bodin in 1576. According to the New Columbia Encyclopedia, sovereignty is "the supreme authority in a political community".
The origin of popular sovereignty, on the other hand, goes most directly back to what is called the social contract school of the mid 1600s to the mid 1700s. Popular sovereignty is the notion that no law or rule is legitimate unless it rests directly or indirectly on the consent of the individuals concerned.
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), John Locke (1632-1704) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) were the most important members of the social contract school. They all postulated that the nature of society, whatever its origins, was a contractual arrangement between its members. The reason men entered society was to protect themselves against the dangers of the "state of nature". But, their theories differed markedly in other respects.
Hobbes in Leviathan, published 1651, claimed that the first and only task of political society was to name an individual or a group of individuals as sovereign. This sovereign would then have absolute power, and each citizen would owe him absolute obedience. Hobbes concept meant that popular sovereignty only existed momentarily. In modern terms we might say that it consisted of "one man, one vote, once".
Locke in his writings e.g. Second Treatise of Government, published 1690, claimed as Hobbes before him, that the social contract was permanent and irrevocable, but the legislative was only empowered to legislate for the public good. If this trust was violated, the people retained the power to replace the legislative with a new legislative. It is unclear whether Locke deposited sovereignty in the people or in the legislative. Though he was less absolute than Hobbes, he clearly didn't intend popular intervention to be commonplace. If anything, Locke's vision is

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