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THE SPELL OF PARMENIDES AND THE PARADOX OF THE COMMONWEALTH

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Given the dominance of the United States' constitutional tradition, the modern world has inherited a widespread conservatism that holds constitutional 'reform' to be risky and change to mean decline. This attitude has ancient roots. Atavism in politics may be traced to movements that draw (however remotely) upon the legacy of the presocratic philosopher, Parmenides, who promoted a monist view of the world and graphically represented a radical rejection of all change as mere illusion. As one of the forerunners of the immeasurably influential Plato and Aristotle, he helped to shape a philosophical worldview in which the ultimate reality was locked in a realm of disembodied and unchanging Forms. Despite his 'new modes and orders', archaism is apparent in Machiavelli's constitutional inheritance from Polybius, who sought to arrest change through a blending of the 'given' forms of government. This mixed constitution is inherently not conducive to democratic development.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Humanities, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351, Australia, Email: gmaddox@une.edu.au

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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