Republican Constitutionalism

Plebeian Institutions and Anti-Oligarchic Rules

in Theoria
Author: Camila Vergara1
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  • 1 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow, University of Cambridge, UK

The article presents a plebeian strand of republican constitutional thought that recognises the influence of inequality on political power, embraces conflict as the effective cause of free government, and channels its anti-oligarchic energy through the constitutional structure. First it engages with two modern plebeian thinkers – Niccolò Machiavelli and Nicolas de Condorcet - focusing on the institutional role of the common people to resist oppression through ordinary and extraordinary political action. Then it discusses the work of two contemporary republican thinkers – Philip Pettit and John McCormick – and contrasts their models of ‘contestatory’ and ‘tribunician’ democracy. Finally, I incorporate a political economy lens and propose as part of republican constitutionalism not only contestatory and tribunician institutions but also anti-oligarchic basic rules to keep inequality and corruption under control.


A Journal of Social and Political Theory


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