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Constituent Power: A History - Lucia Rubinelli

French Protest


Virtual Event


Thu 25 February 2021

The Edinburgh Centre for International and Global Law and The Centre for Ethics and Critical Thought (CRITIQUE) present

Constituent Power: A History

Dr Lucia Rubinelli, Junior Research Fellow in the History of Political Thought at Robinson college


  • Professor Neil Walker,Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations, Edinburgh Law School (profile)
  • Dr Silvia Suteu, Lecturer in Public Law, Faculty of Laws, ECL SLASH (profile on UCL Website)

Hosted by Professor Nehal Bhuta, Professor of Public International Law, Edinburgh Law School (profile)

About the seminar
From the French Revolution onwards, constituent power has been a key concept for thinking about the principle of popular power, and how it should be realised through the state and its institutions. Tracing the history of constituent power across five key moments - the French Revolution, nineteenth-century French politics, the Weimar Republic, post-WWII constitutionalism, and political philosophy in the 1960s - Lucia Rubinelli reconstructs and examines the history of the principle. She argues that, at any given time, constituent power offered an alternative understanding of the power of the people to those offered by ideas of sovereignty. Constituent Power: A History also examines how, in turn, these competing understandings of popular power resulted in different institutional structures and reflects on why contemporary political thought is so prone to conflating constituent power with sovereignty.

About the speaker
Dr Rubinelli is Junior Research Fellow in the History of Political Thought at Robinson college. Prior to joining the University of Cambridge, she was Fellow in Political Theory at the London School of Economics. she received my PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2017 and holds degrees from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris), the LSE and the Università di Trieste.

Dr Rubinelli's primary research interests include the history of nineteenth and twentieth century political thought, political theory, and constitutional theory. Her work explores the variety of ways in which the principle of popular power has been articulated during the French Revolution and after. Dr Rubinelli's first book, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press, offers a history of the language of constituent power in relation to ideas of national and popular sovereignty. It mainly focuses on how Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès’ first theorisation of pouvoir constituant has been used and misused by subsequent theorists, among whom Carl Schmitt, legal scholars in the post-war period, and Hannah Arendt. In Dr Rubinelli's next research project, she aims to explore how nineteenth century debates about plebiscites travelled into the twentieth century in Europe. 


Pre event reading


This event is free and open to all but registration is required.




Image Credit: Photo by Pierre Herman on Unsplash

Event Link

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