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Photo: “Library“, by Stewart Butterfield licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original.

Barker, Christopher, and Robert Ingram. People power: Popular sovereignty from Machiavelli to modernity. Manchester University Press, 2022.


People power explores the history of the theory and practice of popular power. Western thinking about politics has two fundamental features: popular power in practice is problematic and nothing confers political legitimacy except popular sovereignty. This book explains how we got to our current default position in which rule of, for and by the people is simultaneously a practical problem and a received truth of politics. The book asks readers to think about how appreciating that history shapes the way we think about the people’s power in the present. Drawn from the disciplines of history and political theory, the essayists in this volume engage in a mutually informing conversation about popular power. They conclude that the problems which first gave rise to popular sovereignty remain simultaneously compelling, unresolved and worthy of further attention.

Table of Contents:

  1. People Power
  2. Machiavelli’s ‘Moments’
  3. Death and Taxes in Machiavelli’s Florentine State
  4. Taming the Parliament: John Locke on Legislative Limits, Prerogative and Popular Sovereignty
  5. Montesquieu and the Theory of Limited Sovereignty
  6. The Revolution for Society: Rethinking Popular Sovereignty, American Independence and the Age of the Democratic Revolution
  7. Filippo Mazzei’s Atlantic Revolutions: A New Dawn for Popular Sovereignty or Populism?
  8. Popular Sovereignty as Populism in the Early American Republic
  9. Like a God on Earth: Popular Sovereignty in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
  10. Plural Voting and Popular Government in Victorian Britain
  11. Modern Representation and the Popular Will
  12. Sovereignty, God and the Historians
  13. Conclusion: What is Popular Sovereignty?

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.