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Strong Constitutions: Social-Cognitive Origins of the Separation of Powers: Book by Maxwell A. Cameron

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

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ISBN: 9780190235222    Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc Year of publishing: 2015     Format:  Paperback No of Pages: 272        Language: English
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...Read more
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. Strong Constitutions 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 make procedurally 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 rules and 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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About the author: Maxwell A. Cameron
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. Read more
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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Review:
Beyond Cameron's well-structured theory of separation of powers and the significant role it plays in political theory, one is left with the impression that the book's emphasis on the interpretation...Read more
Beyond Cameron's well-structured theory of separation of powers and the significant role it plays in political theory, one is left with the impression that the book's emphasis on the interpretation and application of constitutional texts in a modern democracy rests not so much on clarifying the formal borderlines of each branch of government, but rather on the ability of major political forces to agree on what a constitution means and how it applies to their actions. Today in the Americas, however, the argument that strong government is divided government and the need for that to be based on shared language and meaning is a sharp and unfortunate contrast to the current politics in many countries, including the U.S. Americas Quarterly 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
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