In her book Constituent Power: A History (2020), Lucia Rubinelli aims to provide a history of the “language” or, more precisely, the “words ‘constituent power’” (14). She narrates this impressive history along five historical key moments, from Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès to Hannah Arendt.
In the following, I will, first, comment on the methodology Rubinelli adopts throughout the book and, second, focus on the fifth historical moment “Arendt and the French Revolution” (Chapter 5). In this chapter, Rubinelli reconstructs Arendt’s critique of “sovereignty as a theoretical category and as a principle of political organization” (177) and her suggestion to replace it with ‘constituent power’. It is an original contribution of the book to show that Arendt’s argument is in line with the sense in which Sieyès originally put forward ‘constituent power’ – although Arendt herself framed it as a critique of Sieyès which, according to Rubinelli, is rooted in her inaccurate reading of Sieyès through Carl Schmitt. Continue reading >>