Reconstructing The Commercial Republic: Constitutional Design After Madison

Paperback | September 18, 2015

byStephen L. Elkin

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James Madison is the thinker most responsible for laying the groundwork of the American commercial republic. But he did not anticipate that the propertied class on which he relied would become extraordinarily politically powerful at the same time as its interests narrowed. This and other flaws, argues Stephen L. Elkin, have undermined the delicately balanced system he constructed. In Reconstructing the Commercial Republic, Elkin critiques the Madisonian system, revealing which of its aspects have withstood the test of time and which have not. 

The deficiencies Elkin points out provide the starting point for his own constitutional theory of the republic—a theory that, unlike Madison’s, lays out a substantive conception of the public interest that emphasizes the power of institutions to shape our political, economic, and civic lives. Elkin argues that his theory should guide us toward building a commercial republic that is rooted in a politics of the public interest and the self-interest of the middle class. He then recommends specific reforms to create this kind of republic, asserting that Americans today can still have the lives a commercial republic is intended to promote: lives with real opportunities for economic prosperity, republican political self-government, and individual liberty.

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James Madison is the thinker most responsible for laying the groundwork of the American commercial republic. But he did not anticipate that the propertied class on which he relied would become extraordinarily politically powerful at the same time as its interests narrowed. This and other flaws, argues Stephen L. Elkin, have undermined ...

Stephen L. Elkin is professor emeritus in the Department of Government at the University of Maryland, where he founded the Committee for the Political Economy of the Good Society.

other books by Stephen L. Elkin

City and Regime in the American Republic
City and Regime in the American Republic

Kobo ebook|May 14 2015

$34.39 online$44.62list price(save 22%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:September 18, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022632401X

ISBN - 13:9780226324012

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Table of Contents

Preface
1. Thinking Constitutionally in Light of American Aspirations
Part I: Madison and Constitutional Thinking
2. The Madisonian Commercial Republic
3. Flaws in the Madisonian Theory
4. Political Regimes and Political Rationality
Part II: The Political Constitution of a Commercial Republic
5. The Public Interest
6. A Public Interest Politics I
7. A Public Interest Politics II
8. Class and Self-Interest in the American Commercial Republic
9. Thinking Constitutionally about the American Republic
10. A Modest Program for Republicans (with a small "r")
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

"Given the serious consideration it deserves, Elkin's book should spark a larger debate about the ideas of the founding and their bearing on public policy design and evaluation. Thus, his work is not merely a contribution to the discipline of political science; it is an impressive act of civic education. It reminds the reader of Lincoln's lesson in te Lyceum Address: the best safeguard for perpetuating our political institutions is a proper understanding of their origin."