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Workshop on A. Ferrara, «Sequential Sovereignty. Constituent Power and Political Liberalism» | CEPS Online Seminars, January 25-26, 2021


Manuscript Workshop on Alessandro Ferrara – Sequential Sovereignty. Constituent Power and Political Liberalism

Monday January 25, 2021 | 14:00-18:30 CET
Tuesday, January 26, 2021| 15:00-18:30 CET


Every cohort of voters may dream of being “the people”, under the sway of serial visions of sovereignty; or understand itself, more modestly, as co-author of a constitutional project in a sequential pattern rooted in the past and extending into the future. Sequential Sovereignty articulates a view of popular sovereignty and constituent power grounded in John Rawls’s “political liberalism”.
Political Liberalism opens up with the question, “How is it possible for there to exist over time a just and stable society of free and equal citizens, who remain profoundly divided by reasonable religious, philosophical, and moral doctrines?”. In response to populist threats to democracy, still latent in 1993, this book focuses on a hitherto neglected two-word phrase within Rawls’s question: “over time”.
That inconspicuous phrase signals the urgency of clarifying how “the people,” as the transgenerational author of the constitution, relates to its living segment in its dual capacity of electorate – a constituted power amongst other constituted powers – and, at the same time, of the co-author of the constitution, possessed of amending power. While the people’s constituent power responds to the political conception of justice most reasonable for its bearers, amending power responds to the normativity of constitutional essentials already in force.
Why couldn’t the present voters be as sovereign as the whole transgenerational people?
When addressing this question, we experience why “political liberalism” is broader than Political Liberalism. Rawls’s best answer is not his explicit one but rests on the notion of reciprocity integral to “the reasonable”. Alongside horizontal reciprocity among free and equal citizens, a new Rawlsian notion of vertical reciprocity among free and equal generations of the same people can cast light on the relation of the people to its living segment.


January 25 | 14:00 – 18:30 CET
14:00-14:15 – Workshop Presentation – Joāo Cardoso Rosas (CEPS, UMinho)
14:15-15:00 – Alessandro Ferrara – Introduction to Sequential Sovereignty
15:00-16:00 – Chapter 3: Political liberalism on constituent power: beyond an ossified binary | Comments by Ben Schupmann (Yale-NUS College)

16:00-16:30 – break

16:30-17:30 – Chapter 4: Constituent power and a “political conception of the people” | Comments by David Rasmussen (Boston College)
17:30-18:30 – Chapter 6: Representing the people as interpreting the constitution |Comments by Cristina Lafont (Northwestern University)

January 26 | 15:00 – 18:30 CET
15:00 -15:30 – Alessandro Ferrara: Précis of chapters 5 and 7
15:30 -16:30 – Chapter 5: Time and representation: on representing the people and the electorate |Comments by Giuseppe Ballacci (CEPS, UMinho)

16:30-17:00 – break

17:00-18:00 – Chapter 7: Transforming the constitution: amending power and political liberalism |Comments by Camila Vergara (Columbia University)
18:00-18:30 – Conclusions: Daniele Santoro (CEPS, UMinho)


The workshop is open to everyone. Each session will be followed by a Q&A with the public.
Pre-registration is required. After registering, we will send a confirmation email containing information on how to join the meeting and the pre-circulated material when available. For inquiries, contact the organizers at

The Seminar Series in Ethics and Political Philosophy is a research-oriented initiative hosted by the Center for Ethics, Politics, and Society at the University of Minho, whose aim is to discuss works in progress of both established and younger scholars working in the fields of ethics, social and political philosophy, political and social theory.

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