Beyond Origins: Rethinking Founding in a Time of Constitutional Democracy

ISBN : 9780190494223

Angelica Maria Bernal
280 ページ
156 x 235 mm

The foundings of constitutional democracies are commonly traced to singular moments. In turn, these moments of national origin are characterized as radical political innovations, notable for their civic unity, perfect legitimacy and binding authority. In constitutional democracies, this common view is particularly attractive, with original founding events, actors, and ideals continuously evoked in everyday politics to legitimize state authority and unify citizens. Angelica Maria Bernal challenges this view of foundings, however, explaining that it is ultimately dangerous, misguided, and unsustainable. Beyond Origins argues that the ascription of a universal authority to original founding events is problematic because it limits our understanding of subsequent foundational changes, political transformation and innovation. This singular view also confounds our ability to account for all of the actors and venues through which foundation-building and constitutional transformation occurs. Because such understandings of national foundings obscure the many power struggles at work in them, these origin stories are invalid. In the wake of these limited views of national founding, Bernal develops an alternate approach: "founding beyond origins." Rather than asserting that founding events are authoritatively settled and relegated to history, this framework redefines foundings as contentious, uncertain, and incomplete. Indeed, the book looks at a wide variety of contexts - early imperial Rome; revolutionary Haiti and France; the mid-20th century, racially-segregated United States; and contemporary Latin America - to reconsider political foundings as a contestatory and ongoing dimension of political life. Bridging classic and contemporary political and constitutional theory with historical readings, Bernal reorients understandings of political foundings, arguing that it is only through context-specific and pragmatist understandings of democratic origins that we can realize the potential for radical democratic change.


Part I: Foundings and Foundationalism
Chapter 1: Foundational Invocations: Contemporary Politics and the Problem of Original Authority
Chapter 2: A Good and Perfect Beginning: Plato's Laws and the Problem of the Lawgiver and the People
Chapter 3: A Tale of Two Democratic Foundings: US, Haiti, and The Problem of Self-Constitution
Part II: Founding Beyond Origins
Chapter 4: Foundings, Origins, and Repetition: Livy's Roman Foundings Reconsidered
Chapter 5: The Promise and Perils of Presidential Refounding in Latin America
Chapter 6: The Regenerative Founding: Jefferson, the French Revolution, and Democratic Founding
Chapter 7: Another Birth of Freedom: Mendez and the Constituent Power of the Excluded


Angelica Maria Bernal is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research centers on the history of foundings, revolutionary and constitutional politics, Latin American politics, and indigenous rights and social movements. She is a former Fulbright Fellow, an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Humanistic Studies, and author of De la Exclusion a la Participacion: Pueblos Indigenas y Sus Derechos Colectivos en el Ecuador (Abya Yala Press, 2000).