1st Edition

Constituent Power Beyond the State Democratic Agency in Polycentric Polities

By Geneviève Nootens Copyright 2022
    190 Pages
    by Routledge

    190 Pages
    by Routledge

    The concept of constituent power plays a major part in modern political and legal theory— in how we think about the political. This book tackles the twofold issue of public authority and public autonomy in the modern conception of the political by analysing the notion of constituent power, its function in the modern political apparatus, and debates about its meaning and function in our own context.

    Focusing on contemporary debates on constitutionalism "beyond" the state, Geneviève Nootens assesses the prospects for recasting the notion of constituent power in a polycentric setting that challenges state sovereignty as embodying the autonomy of the political. She argues that constituent power belongs with the conceptual apparatus of a theory of government peculiar to a statist way of knowing, and being into, the world, and that it is too much dependent upon the statist framework for it to have critical purchase on  the new mappings of public authority. Nootens stresses the critical need to frame public authority appropriately if we are to conceptualize a conception of collective political agency that can sustain public autonomy in the current era.

    Constituent Power Beyond the State will be of interest to students and scholars of political theory, democratic theory, law, and constitutionalism.


    1. The concept of constituent power

    2. Constituent power and the modern state

    3. A reconfiguration of public authority?

    4. Translating constituent power on a supranational or global scal

    5. A post-constituent order?

    6. Constituent power and "narratives of protest"

    7. A new narrative of public authority?


    Geneviève Nootens is Full Professor of Political Science at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Chicoutimi, QC, Canada. Her research interests are mainly concerned with the redeployment of democratic practices and the diffusion of sovereignty; majority and minority nationalism; and plurinational societies.

    "Constituent power remains a vital resource for popular politics today and yet it is often lost in an era of supranational legal institutions and transnational corporations, each of which leaves citizens feeling powerless. In this book Geneviève Nootens explains brilliantly how constituent power continues to underpin the legitimacy of political rule and offers insights into how the link between political citizenship and democratic authorisation must remain strong if new constitutional forms are to lay claim to any legitimacy. The book is an essential read for anyone interested in the political and economic changes transforming our world and of the risks we run in forsaking collective democratic agency as the vital mechanism through which to call new power structures to account."

    Stephen Tierney, Professor of Constitutional Theory, The University of Edinburgh