Loughborough University
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A discourse on Althusius: an investigation into Sui Generic constitutionalism

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posted on 2016-04-07, 12:49 authored by Matthew R.J. McCullock
This thesis aims at furthering our understanding of the constitutional structures and processes of sui generic associations such as the European Union. The thesis argues that the problematical constitutionalisation of the European Union has highlighted the limitations of the political thought that has served as the basis of political associationalism since the Treaty ofWestphalia (1648) and the publication of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (1651). These limitations have resulted in the European Union being described, for want of a better expression, as sui generis. The thesis advances the argument that in order to be in a position to understand constitutional relations in a 'non-statal' setting, what is needed is an alternative variant of political thought that is not based in or dependent on the societas canon that originates with Hobbes. One source of such political thought can be located in the work of Johannes Althusius (1557-1638) who, writing in the city of Emden in the Holy Roman Empire in the early 17th Century, described a constitutional structure of a political association that differs in significant features to the centralised state theories of the societas canon. The thesis also argues that the traditional concepts of constitutionalism and political association applied to sui generic constitutionalism are hampered by the inherent weaknesses of modem political and legal vocabulary. Despite being used ad infinitum in the constitutional discussions on the European Union, there is not a precise definition of either the term 'constitution' or treaty' in political or legal theory. Althusius' work avoids this weakness, due to the fact that the centralised state does not enjoy the same position it does in the societas canon, and so the need to classify 'intra' or 'inter' state relationships does not exist to the same degree. While taking the European Union as a workable model of a sui generic association, this thesis does not aim at solving the European Union's constitutional problems or offering a more suitable term to describe its nature. Rather, based on an analysis of Althusius' work, the thesis aims to offer an alternative understanding of the problems that result from the constitutionalisation of sui generic associations.



  • Social Sciences


  • Politics and International Studies


© Matthew McCullock

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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