The politics of sovereignty : federalism in American political development
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The development of American federalism is a story of contested sovereignty, and those contests are fundamentally shaped by the evolving structures, relationships, and understandings of the constitutional order. This dissertation seeks to show how the American federal system is both cause and effect of political development. Even as it structures legal and political contestation, American federalism is shaped—even redefined—by such contestation. Central to the account of American federalism that I advance are two related arguments about the nature of the federal system. The first is that the Constitution’s definition of the state-federal relationship is structurally underdeterminate: while the Constitution constrains the set of permissible state-federal relationships, it fixes no single definition. Rather than establish a determinate division of state and national powers, the Constitution establishes a range of parameters for their relationship and sets forth the legal and political processes through which that relationship is contested, defined, and revised. As a result, the American federal system both shapes and is shaped by constitutionally structured politics. Developing an implication of this argument, the second argument holds that notions and definitions of sovereignty are structured relationally. Articulations of national power reciprocally define a category of state powers, just as invocation of local concerns over which states have authority reciprocally define national concerns over which the national government has authority. On this account federalism is both an independent and a dependent variable, an approach that shifts our focus from federalism and American political development to federalism in American political development. By foregrounding the underdeterminacy of the federal system and interrogating the constitutional construction it anticipates, we can glimpse the intertwined contingency and continuity of American constitutional development. This dissertation is broadly divided into two parts—the first theoretical, the second developmental—each of which consists of two components. The resulting four chapters constitute the core of the project. The theoretical chapters (Chapters One and Two) provide a framework for understanding the federal system both in the general context of the American Constitution and, more specifically, in contrast with the separation of powers. This framework is fundamentally structured by the underdeterminate constitutional division of state and national powers and the consequent need for constitutional construction of the state-federal relationship. The developmental chapters (Chapters Three and Four) operationalize the theoretical framework developed in the first two chapters in two different domains: constitutional jurisprudence and a discrete episode of the political construction of the state-federal relationship. Taken together, these chapters are intended to illustrate the central argument of the preceding chapters: that the constitutional design of the federal system anticipates development and that this development is inflected by the institutional logics of the principal institutions of American government. The dissertation concludes with a brief reflection on the two conceptual cornerstones of the analysis presented in the preceding chapters: constitutional construction and constitutional logics.
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