The Last Stand: John C. Calhoun

  • Ivan JankovicEmail author


This chapter analyzes the contribution of John C Calhoun to the decentralist philosophy. John C. Calhoun is probably the most original and penetrating thinker of the early American liberalism. He saw clearly the two major problems of constitutional design and protection of liberty and offered solutions for them; first, any constitutional limitations of central government are worthless if not followed up by a real, political, and territorial checks and balances. The second is rejection of the Lockean and Hobbesian social contract framework of a unified body politic represented by a sovereign central government, tied to the individual directly by social contract. Calhoun rehabilitates society as an intermediary force between the central government and individuals, by interjecting state governments and local factions as constitutional political actors. In clear contradiction to all modern theories of democracy and social choice, Calhoun argues that it is not the quantitative, but rather the qualitative or “concurrent” majority that counts in terms of real representation and democracy, which are primarily focused on protecting community powers of self-government. The chapter concludes that Calhoun both clearly formulated an attractive alternative to majoritarianism and reconciled the compact theory with nationalism, by making it a national decision-making mechanism.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MaryBismarckUSA

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