Calhoun's Concurrent Majority as a Generality Norm

26 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2014 Last revised: 2 Mar 2016

See all articles by Alexander William Salter

Alexander William Salter

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business; American Institute for Economic Research

Date Written: December 10, 2014


The purpose of this paper is to analyze the political philosophy of John C. Calhoun from the perspective of Virginia Political Economy. Specifically, this paper argues that Calhoun’s theory of the concurrent majority offers a way of operationalizing the "generality norm" of Buchanan and Congleton (2003 [1988]). The analysis of this doctrine, which holds that constitutional democracy can only be preserved from majoritarian absolutism if minority interests have the power to check the power of majority coalitions, is this paper’s main purpose. The paper also discusses the most plausible way Calhoun’s recommendations can be put into practice in the United States by drawing on insights from his Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, in which he defends the social compact theory of the union and the benefits of federalism.

Keywords: Calhoun, concurrent majority, constitutional political economy, federalism, generality norm, majoritarianism, social compact, unanimity

JEL Classification: H1, H77, P1

Suggested Citation

Salter, Alexander William, Calhoun's Concurrent Majority as a Generality Norm (December 10, 2014). Constitutional Political Economy 26(3) 2015: 375-390, Available at SSRN: or

Alexander William Salter (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University - Rawls College of Business ( email )

Lubbock, TX 79409
United States


American Institute for Economic Research

PO Box 1000
Great Barrington, MA 01230
United States

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