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Sieyès and republican liberty

Lindsay, Adam

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Assistant Professor in Politics


In On the People’s Terms, Philip Pettit incorporates the Sieyèsian notion of constituent power into his constitutional theory of non-domination. In this article, I argue that Emmanuel Sieyès’s understanding of liberty precludes such an appropriation. While a republican, his conceptualisation of liberty in the face of commercial society stood apart from theories of civic vigilance, preferring instead to disentangle individuals from politics and maximise what he understood to be their non-political freedoms. Sieyès saw that liberty was heightened through relations of representation and commercial dependency. This conception of liberty was pivotal to the identity of the nation, and so allowed Sieyès to assess forms of collective injustice committed by the French nobility. It also provided the normative foundation of his theory of constituent power. For Sieyès, constituent power guarded against legislative excess in a decidedly minimal sense, intending instead to separate citizens from the political sphere so they were not burdened with ongoing participation or public vigilance.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 24, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 22, 2020
Publication Date Jan 1, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 2, 2020
Publicly Available Date Dec 22, 2020
Journal European Journal of Political Theory
Print ISSN 1474-8851
Electronic ISSN 1741-2730
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 1
Pages 155-177
Keywords Liberty; domination; dependency; representation; republicanism; constituent power
Public URL
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