Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The concept of founding
by Bernal, Angelica Maria, Ph.D., Yale University, 2008, 300; 3317259
Abstract (Summary)

Scholars tend to conceptualize founding as an exceptional authoritative event in the life of a polity, a moment of creation that is fixed in space and time. In this dissertation, I argue that this conception is flawed, particularly as a vision that can ensure the democratic legitimation of changing constitutional orders. Against this conception, I argue for re-conceptualizing founding as a historically changing concept and construct that lives in the political imagination of a people. Part One of this dissertation advances this argument by examining the set of genealogies of founding that define its conceptual lineage in classical and late modern political thought. I trace out the first set of genealogies by investigating the differing conceptions of founding in the works of Plato, Aristotle, Livy, Augustine and Machiavelli, and the conceptual transformations which their visions of founding reflect: from founding as an object of the imagination to founding as a criminal and sinful event, and its reversal as a moment of exceptional virtue and freedom. I trace out a second set of genealogies in the emergence of two grand narratives of modern founding within a tradition of European political thought that includes Burke, Tocqueville and Arendt. I illustrate how these two grand narratives, which emerge as interpretations of the American and French Revolutions, develop discourses which juxtapose the two events along a set of idealizations and construct a dominant ideal type of what a modern democratic founding should look like centered on an image of the American Founding as an authoritative event. Part Two challenges this dominant ideal type and makes the case for rethinking founding as a contested concept and construct in the political imagination through an examination of the contested meaning of the American Founding and by illustrating the limitations of contemporary conceptions of founding in political theory. I end by advancing an alternative conception based on the insights of dissertation—the idea of the Contestatory Founding—and argue that this vision can provide us with a better guide for addressing the issue of legitimation in complex, pluralistic democracies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Benhabib, Seyla
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 69/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science
Keywords: Constitutionalism, Democratic theory, Foundings, Historiography, Legitimacy, Political theory
Publication Number: 3317259
ISBN: 978-0-549-65272-4
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