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The emphasis in contemporary democratic theory and in the history of political thought on the peculiarly abstract theory of popular sovereignty of Locke and his twentieth-century intellectual descendants obscures a crucial relationship between constitutional self-government and nationalism. Through a Hobbesian and Filmerian critique of Locke and an examination of the political writings of George Lawson (a seventeenth-century critic of Hobbes), the article shows the necessary connections between popular sovereignty, constitutionalism and a form of national consciousness that renders concrete the otherwise abstract and airy notion of the pre-political community to which government is to be held accountable, and, through amyth of national origin, memories of native traditions of self-government, and stories of heroic ancestors who successfully defended those traditions against usurpers and tyrants, gives substance to theories of constitutional government.
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Keywords: English Civil War; Filmer; George Lawson; Hobbes; Locke; constitutionalism; nationalism; popular sovereignty; the ancient constitution

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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