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Civil War and revolution gave birth to modern constitutionalism and they continue to shape its development.  This course explores the relationship between law and popular sovereignty by focusing on the theory and history of revolutionary politics.  It begins by examining the idea that sounds most modern constitutions - the claim that people are sovereign and have the power to give themselves a constitutional order - by focusing on the major theorists of the French and American revolutions. The second part of the course examines criticisms of the link between constitutionalism and popular sovereignty that emerged in response to the revolutionary movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. These will include Marxist and anarchist claim that the state cannot realise popular self-determination and so needs to be eliminated through revolution, and the reactionary argument that democracy undermines law, order and morality. The final section of the course explores the radical democratic turn of critical theory since the 1970s and its tendency to critique law and rights while appropriating them for emancipatory politics. The course will situate these theories in their historical context and examine their contemporary relevance in the activities of existing social movements. Students will emerge from the course with a knowledge of theories of law and democracy that have shaped political history.  They will also develop a critical understanding of the strengths and limitations of law and revolutionary politics as vehicles for realising democratic aspirations.

Faculty Faculty of Law
Study Level


Indicative contact hours


Conditions for Enrolment

Prerequisite: Completion of 78 UOC in LAWS courses.

Course Outline

To access course outline, please visit:

Pre-2019 Handbook Editions

Access past handbook editions (2018 and prior)

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