Book Review: Anti-Federalist Papers

By Jacob Aitken - Posted at Cosmic Geography:

Collapsing into Dialectic

At this point I want to call attention to an argument Joseph Farrell made in God, History, and Dialectic. Drawing upon an insight from St Gregory Nazianzus, Farrell asks, “what is the relation of origin, if any, between the people and the mutually opposed organs of federal government? If there be none, then those relationships reduce to merely dialectical oppositions (Farrell 617ff). The Federalist Papers (no. 10) seek to balance the antagonizing forces by having these agons reduce to a chimerical term, “The People.”

so Farrell concludes,

“The essence of the Anti-Federalist critique of the 1789 constitution then, was that it tended, if one may so put it, to collapse, through the multiplication of governmental agencies and the relations of oppositions that distinguish them, either into perpetual anarchy on the one hand, or into an eventual amalgamation of all powers of government into a new and superintending form of tyrannical simplicity” (618).

Throughout the Anti-Federalist Papers one notes the authors’ fear of the “instability” of the proposed Constitution. In dialectical terms, this means the unstable government (or branches) must always reduce to the the more stable, albeit more totalizing branch.

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