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THE MIXED CONSTITUTION VERSUS THE SEPARATION OF POWERS: MONARCHICAL AND ARISTOCRATIC ASPECTS OF MODERN DEMOCRACY

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The theory of the separation of powers between a legislature, an executive and a judiciary is still the foundation of modern representative democracy. It was developed by Montesquieu and came to replace the older theory of the mixed constitution which goes back to Plato, Aristotle and Polybios: there are three types of constitution: monarchy, oligarchy and democracy; when institutions from each of the three types are mixed, an interplay between the institutions emerges that affects all functions of state: legislation, implementation of laws and jurisdiction. Today Montesquieu's separation of powers is riddled with so many exceptions that it is an obstacle rather than a help to understand the structure of modern democracy. The mixed constitution deserves to be revived as a corrective to the prevailing view that Western states are pure democracies and that democracy is rule by the people.
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Keywords: Aristotle's Politics; Iraq war 2003; Montesquieu; Polybios; constitutional courts; mixed constitution; parliamentary system; representative democracy; separation of powers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Saxo Instituttet, Njalsgade 80, 2300 Copenhagen S, Denmark, Email: mhh@hum.ku.dk

Publication date: 2010-01-01

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