Unpopular Sovereignty?

LSE Legal Studies Working Paper 3/2020

Modern Law Review, Forthcoming

23 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2020

See all articles by Alexander Somek

Alexander Somek

University of Iowa - College of Law

Michael A. Wilkinson

London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: March 18, 2020


Popular sovereignty was presented in modern constitutional discourse as a mode of collective action. It was supposedly manifest in the power to constitute, control and dismantle governments. Important strands of contemporary constitutional theory, notably legal constitutionalism and deliberative democracy, have taken leave of this tradition. They have severed the connection between sovereignty and action. What remains of popular sovereignty is fundamental rights and values, or dispersed networks of deliberation. This is based on the idea that the place of power is ‘empty’ and legitimised on the principle of including ‘All-Affected-Interests’. The very concept of sovereignty thus becomes unpopular. This contribution aims to re-establish the link between popular sovereignty and action by examining sovereignty’s emancipatory telos, its majoritarian mode of operation and its dependence on political citizenship.

Keywords: Popular Sovereignty, Constitutionalism, Democracy, Emancipation, Power, All-Affected Interestes

Suggested Citation

Somek, Alexander and Wilkinson, Michael A., Unpopular Sovereignty? (March 18, 2020). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper 3/2020, Modern Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3556666 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3556666

Alexander Somek

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

Michael A. Wilkinson (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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