This bold and ambitious book marries history and political theory to solve the riddle of why representative institutions emerged in the West, pre-eminently in England rather than elsewhere. The question is hardly novel, but the solution is. For Boucoyannis, the origins of liberalism and constitutionalism lie not in rights conceded by weak rulers but, on the contrary, in a strong central authority imposing collective obligations on the most powerful interest groups in the state. The demands for rights and the outcomes prized in modern liberal democratic states are not primary but secondary, the products of representation rather than its cause. This argument, contradicting previous interpretations, she calls “the normative empirical inversion.” Eschewing both idealist and materialist perspectives, she places justice and the control of justice by a strong state at the center of her argument. A corollary of the strong-state hypothesis is that the form of polity often known as...

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