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Locke on the federative

Poole, Thomas (2018) Locke on the federative. LSE Law, Society and Economy Working Papers (21/20172). Department of Law, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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Identification Number: 10.2139/ssrn.3086173


This paper focuses on Locke’s analysis of the federative power, presented as a distinct juridical category separate from both the ordinary and special (prerogative) powers of the executive in that it relates to the ‘external’ capacities of the state. The operation of the federative is marked by the interplay between strategy (prudence) and law (norm). While Locke acknowledges the strategic element, he downplays the juridical dimension. This move is unconvincing. It does not fit well with Locke’s designation of treaty-making as the power’s central feature, nor with the comparatively thick account of natural law that otherwise characterises his political thought. The federative should be seen as the part of the domestic constitution through which the state’s external agency is exercised and the location of the state’s duties in respect of the jurisgenerative activities in the international sphere. As such, the way Locke buries the legal aspect of federative – through the pairing of federative and executive – is less obvious than he thought. Locke’s analysis fails to integrate the federative within a broader constitutional framework, leaving it almost entirely to the discretion of the Prince. I turn to Henry Neville for a contemporary attempt to reconcile the prudential and rule of law elements of the federative suitable for English conditions.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The Author
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2018 15:00
Last Modified: 13 May 2021 15:45

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