Constitutional Self-Government and Nationalism: Hobbes, Locke and George Lawson

E. ALEXANDER-DAVEY
HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT 35.3 (2014): 458-484

Abstract: 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 a myth 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.