The Citizen-Focused Account of the State

By Miller, Bradley W. | Constitutional Commentary, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

The Citizen-Focused Account of the State


Miller, Bradley W., Constitutional Commentary


THE CONSTITUTIONAL STATE. N. W. Barber. (1) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. xiii + 199. $100.00 (Cloth).

A description of any social institution such as the state will be shaped (and limited) by the conceptual apparatus chosen by the investigator. This is an obvious point; different priorities and methodologies will highlight different features and generate different explanations. Where some features are illuminated, others are correspondingly left in shadow. When it comes to describing the state, we would expect a political scientist to ask different questions and work with different concepts than, say, a sociologist. And a lawyer? Academic lawyers who examine the state have often focused on what Nick Barber calls legalistic accounts: they examine rules, and the commands that the rules instantiate, and the nature of the authority by which the commands are made. These legalistic accounts of the state include the enduring contributions of Hans Kelsen and Max Weber, as well as the strain of Oxford analytical legal philosophy exemplified by the work of H. L. A. Hart, Joseph Raz, and Leslie Green. These studies attend closely to the vertical relationship between the state and its members (typically, its citizens) constituted by legal rules. In setting out his own account of the state--an account that is self-consciously more interdisciplinary in method--Barber acknowledges these intellectual debts and identifies several points of disagreement (and agreement) with them, but his focus is predominately on those features of the state that have been left neglected or under-explained in these more legalistic accounts.

Barber's proposal is to consider the state as a social group and, specifically, a group that uses rules (legal and nonlegal) to relate members not only--or even predominantly--to the governing institutions, but to each other. This approach to the state necessitates first coming to terms with the nature of social groups generally and how the state qualifies as a social group (chapter 2), the forms of membership in that social group (chapter 3), and the rules that bind the members to the state and to each other (chapters 4-6). With the main concepts thus articulated, Barber carries on in chapters 7-10 to test drive his model. Is it intelligible, he asks, to attribute intentions and actions to the state (chapter 7)? If it is, to what extent (and in what sense) can states be responsible for their actions? To what extent do current members of the state share that responsibility, and what should be required of them as a consequence? Does it lessen responsibility if the actions in question took place several lifetimes ago (chapter 8)? In the book's final grouping of chapters (9-10), Barber addresses the claims of legal and constitutional pluralism, particularly in the context of the European Union.

All of this is preceded by an opening chapter that addresses methodology in constitutional theory--a free-standing essay that ought to be required reading for any serious student of constitutional theory. Barber surveys rival approaches to constitutional theory, including historical, critical, interpretive, and political. Although he argues for the priority of interpretive theory (in the sense that other approaches presuppose an interpretive account) (pp. 2-5), he nevertheless insists that other approaches to constitutional theory are "all ... valuable, all ... compatible, and all play a part in our understanding of the nature and functioning of constitutions" (pp. 1-2). In keeping with Weber, Hart, and John Finnis, Barber works from the postulate that it is the task of the constitutional theorist to identify the "central case" of the constitutional institution under investigation (p. 8). Identifying the central case cannot be a merely descriptive enterprise, because it requires the theorist to evaluate the criteria by which centrality will be assessed. It is inescapable that theorists begin with some "ethical framework which gives content to the good and the bad, and then use this to identify features of importance" (p. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Citizen-Focused Account of the State
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.