Popular sovereignty, state autonomy, and private property

A. Przeworski, M. Wallerstein

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Popular sovereignty has been historically seen as vulnerable to three threats: Imperfections of the democratic process, autonomy of the state, and private property (I). The argument that popular sovereignty is unfeasible, whether because of the irredeemable weakness of the people or the inherent vulnerability of democratic institutions, has constituted the conservative position since the time of the French and the American revolutions. The fear of state autonomy has a more convoluted history: Originally a left-wing theme, antistatism was only recently and only in part embraced by the Right. Finally, the belief that popular sovereignty is impossible or at least gravely limited in any society in which productive resources are owned privately has been the traditional, almost defining, feature of socialist movements. The purpose of this paper is to examine these traditional positions in their contemporary form, specifically, to reconstruct the arguments, to analyze their logical and empirical validity, to identity issues that can be resolved, and to draw some consequences.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)21-65
    Number of pages45
    JournalArchives Europeennes de Sociologie
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - 2001

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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