The Idea of the Federative

32 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2020

See all articles by Thomas M. Poole

Thomas M. Poole

London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: December 6, 2020


Locke used the term ‘federative’ to designate the foreign relations power of the commonwealth. The argument builds on Locke’s intuition, sourced from Cicero, that this power is concerned centrally with the capacity to effect compacts (alliances) with other political associations. One advantage of the perspective that ensues is that this compact-making power is demonstrably a juridical idea. It is an idea, moreover, that is open to the possibility of reciprocity and, by extension, the development of truly juridical structures of mutual recognition. In contrast to rival theories which have war or enmity as the focus of foreign relations, the federative theory relies on the generative properties of compact-making and serves as such to de-centre war from this central position within the external constitution. The federative offers the prospect of escaping the paradox of the sovereign state, based on law and peace internally, but geared to prerogative and war externally, and unites the object of the internal and external aspects of the constitution—peace—and the means of achieving that object—law.

Suggested Citation

Poole, Thomas M., The Idea of the Federative (December 6, 2020). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 18/2020, Available at SSRN: or

Thomas M. Poole (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

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