The foundings of constitutional democracies are commonly traced to singular moments. In turn, these moments of national origin are characterized as radical political innovations, notable for their civic unity, perfect legitimacy and binding authority. This common view is attractive as it suggests original founding events, actors, and ideals that can be evoked to legitimize state authority and unify citizens. Ang?lica Maria Bernal challenges this view of foundings, however, explaining that it is ultimately dangerous, misguided, and unsustainable. Beyond Origins argues that the ascription of a universal authority to original founding events is problematic because it limits our understanding of subsequent foundational changes, political transformation and innovation. This singular view also confounds our ability to account for all of the actors and venues through which foundation-building and constitutional transformation occurs. Because such understandings of national foundings obscure the many power struggles at work in them, these origin stories are troubling and unhelpful. In the wake of these limited views of founding, Bernal develops an alternate approach: "e;founding beyond origins."e; Rather than asserting that founding events are authoritatively settled and relegated to history, this framework redefines foundings as contentious, uncertain, and incomplete. Indeed, the book looks at a wide variety of contexts-early imperial Rome; revolutionary Haiti and France; the mid-20th century, racially-segregated United States; and contemporary Latin America-to reconsider political foundings as a contestatory and ongoing dimension of political life. Bridging classic and contemporary political and constitutional theory with historical readings, Bernal reorients approaches to foundings, arguing that it is only through context-specific and pragmatist understandings of political origins that we can realize the potential for radical democratic change.
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