Frank Coleman makes a persuasive case that the real roots of the American political system are in Hobbes, and not, as is usually thought, in Locke. He shows that a Hobbesian interpretation fits the transactional, bargaining, or conflict-management nature of American politics pointed out by all the empirical political scientists, although this viewpoint is incompatible with the leading philosophical interpretations of American constitutionalism.
In so far as the American system and its rationale are Hobbesian, they are thereby incapable of resolving social conflicts and of pursuing any common good. The leading theories, particularly the reformist theories, are unable to absorb the teachings of empirical political science – and to such an extent that one can speak of a pattern of political schizophrenia prevailing in the political science profession.
Coleman is no naive iconoclast: he has a thorough grasp and appreciation of the traditions of political theory from Aristotle to Oakeshott: he dissects his material meticulously, with coherence and integrity. His synthesis of empirical and philosophical studies of political life sharpens our perceptions and forces a re-evaluation of certain ideas and well-entrenched notions. Hobbes and America has serious implications for understanding both American politics and, more generally, western political experience and thought.
Power in the People presents a detailed analysis of not only the origins of democracy, development and operation of government, and evolution of the country, but also a penetrating look into the character and purpose of the republic. Morley focuses on the founding of American freedom in the conviction that the individual is fully capable of self-government, and therefore power must be dispersed as much as possible among the individual citizens who generate public order from the internal order of their own souls. The power in the people is precisely that of self-government, which minimizes the need for state power, and the self-government is necessarily under the authority of God.
The dream of building a commonwealth more gracious than any that had gone before was ever in the minds of the founding fathers and reflected in their act of placing great power in the hands of the citizens. Michael Henry's new introduction to this classic book places the work into the context of contemporary society, most poignantly noting that America, by Morley's standards, has not been vigilant enough in preserving its historic greatness or freedom.
If not to protect civil liberties and the freedom of the people, what motivated the framers? In Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution, Holton provides the startling discovery that the primary purpose of the Constitution was, simply put, to make America more attractive to investment. And the linchpin to that endeavor was taking power away from the states and ultimately away from the people. In an eye-opening interpretation of the Constitution, Holton captures how the same class of Americans that produced Shays's Rebellion in Massachusetts (and rebellions in damn near every other state) produced the Constitution we now revere.
Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution is a 2007 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.