Strong Constitutions: Social-Cognitive Origins of the Separation of Powers

Paperback | March 15, 2015

byMaxwell A. Cameron

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The separation of powers is an idea with ancient origins, but nowadays it is largely relegated to legal doctrine, public philosophy, or the history of ideas. Yet the concept is often evoked in debates on the "war" on terrorism, the use of emergency powers, or constitutional reform. StrongConstitutions boldly places the separation of powers on a social scientific footing, arguing that it emerged with the spread of literacy, became central to constitutional thought after the Gutenberg revolution, and faces unprecedented challenges in our current era of electronic communication.Constitutional states use texts to coordinate collective action, and they do so by creating governmental agencies with specific jurisdiction and competence over distinct types of power. Among them are the power to make decisions backed by legally sanctioned coercion; the deliberative power to makeprocedurally legitimate laws; and the judicial power to interpret and apply laws in particular circumstances. The division of government into three such branches enables state officials and citizens to use written texts-legal codes and documents, including constitutions-along with unwritten rulesand conventions to coordinate their activities on larger scales and over longer time horizons. Cameron argues that constitutional states are not weaker because their powers are separated. They are generally stronger because they solve collective action problems rooted in speech and communication. The book is a must read for anyone interested in the separation of powers, its origin,evolution, and consequences.

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The separation of powers is an idea with ancient origins, but nowadays it is largely relegated to legal doctrine, public philosophy, or the history of ideas. Yet the concept is often evoked in debates on the "war" on terrorism, the use of emergency powers, or constitutional reform. StrongConstitutions boldly places the separation of po...

Maxwell A. Cameron is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9.09 × 6.1 × 0.59 inPublished:March 15, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190235225

ISBN - 13:9780190235222

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Table of Contents

List of FiguresAcknowledgements1. Introduction: Strong Constitutions2. Social-Cognitive Origins of the Separation of Powers3. Literacy and the Invention of Constitutions4. The Printing Press and Constitutional Revolutions5. Electronic Media, Mass Politics, and Electoral Democracy6. Beyond Liberalism: Language, Law, and Deliberation7. Democracy Without the Separation of Powers?8. Conclusion: Writing, Power, and DemocracyBibliography

Editorial Reviews

"In this imaginative and readable book, Cameron (Univ. of British Columbia) provides a learned defense of the separation of powers...One of the most insightful defenses of the separation of powers to appear in many years. Summing Up: Highly recommended." --Choice