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CONTRACT, COVENANT, CONSTITUTION

  • Loren E. Lomasky (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Contract is the dominant model for political philosophy's understanding of government grounded on the consent of the governed. However, there are at least five disabilities attached to classical social contract theory: (1) the grounding contract never actually occurred; (2) its provisions are vague and contestable; (3) the stringency of the obligation thereby established is dubious; (4) trans-generational consent is questionable; (5) interpretive methods for giving effect to the contract are ill-specified. By contrast, the biblical story of the covenant Israel embraces at Sinai is shown to be more adequately attentive to each of these five desiderata. The essay then focuses on the U.S. Constitution, arguing that in many ways it is more reflective of covenantal legitimating themes than those of social contract. The result is a promisingly different mode of understanding government by the consent of the governed.

Abstract

Contract is the dominant model for political philosophy's understanding of government grounded on the consent of the governed. However, there are at least five disabilities attached to classical social contract theory: (1) the grounding contract never actually occurred; (2) its provisions are vague and contestable; (3) the stringency of the obligation thereby established is dubious; (4) trans-generational consent is questionable; (5) interpretive methods for giving effect to the contract are ill-specified. By contrast, the biblical story of the covenant Israel embraces at Sinai is shown to be more adequately attentive to each of these five desiderata. The essay then focuses on the U.S. Constitution, arguing that in many ways it is more reflective of covenantal legitimating themes than those of social contract. The result is a promisingly different mode of understanding government by the consent of the governed.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Robert L. Maddex , Constitutions of the World, 3d ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2008)

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Social Philosophy and Policy
  • ISSN: 0265-0525
  • EISSN: 1471-6437
  • URL: /core/journals/social-philosophy-and-policy
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