All democratic constitutions feature "the people" as their author and ultimate source of legitimacy. They claim to embody the political form that citizens are in some sense supposed to have given themselves. But in what sense, exactly? When does a constitution really or genuinely speak for the people? Such questions are especially pertinent to our present condition, where the voice of "the people" turns out to be irrevocably fragmented, and people themselves want to speak and be heard in their own voices.
Founding Acts explores the relationship between constitutional claims of popular sovereignty and the practice of constitution-making in our pluralistic age. Serdar Tekin argues that the process of making a constitution, or its pedigree, is as morally and politically significant as its content. Consequently, democratic constitution-making is not only about making a democratic constitution but also about making it, as much as possible, democratically.
Tekin develops two overarching arguments in support of this claim. First, citizen participation in the process of constitution-making is essential to the democratic legitimacy of a new constitution. Second, collective action, that is, the political experience of constructing public life together, is what binds diverse people into a democratic peoplehood. Bringing into dialogue a wide range of canonical and contemporary thinkers, Tekin examines historical realities extending from revolutionary America and France to contemporary South Africa and Germany.
Introduction. The Problem of Democratic Founding
Chapter 1. Origins and Foundations: Two Features of the Modern Constitution
Chapter 2. The Paradox of Democratic Founding: Canonical Statements and Contemporary Perspectives
Chapter 3. The People and the Lawgiver: Rousseau on the Possibility of Democratic Founding
Chapter 4. Building a Homeland: Founding and Identity in Hannah Arendt's Jewish Writings
Chapter 5. Revolution and Constitution: The Legitimacy of Beginning in Question
Chapter 6. Law and Democracy in Founding Moments: Deliberative Constitution-Making
Conclusion. "The Act by Which a People Is a People"
"Synthesizing political philosophy with legal and constitutional theory, Serdar Tekin's fascinating book underscores an old idea in new and creative ways: constitutional foundations matter. How constitutions are made, he powerfully argues, is just as important as what they are made of. Along the way, Tekin revisits thinkers ranging from Rousseau to Arendt and Habermas, offering lucid reinterpretations of their ideas about constitutionalism and popular sovereignty. A must read for both political theorists and legal and constitutional scholars."—William E. Scheuerman, Indiana University
"Founding Acts makes an original and substantial contribution to democratic and constitutional theory. Scrupulous and fair-minded, the book is clearly organized and accessibly written, making it an excellent teaching text as well as one suitable for a broad audience of democratic theorists."—James Ingram, McMaster University