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Ambition in AmericaPolitical Power and the Collapse of Citizenship$
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Jeffrey A. Becker

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780813145044

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813145044.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM KENTUCKY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.kentucky.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The University Press of Kentucky, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in KSO for personal use.date: 16 January 2021

The Ambition of Interests

The Ambition of Interests

American Constitutionalism

(p.39) 2 The Ambition of Interests
Ambition in America

Jeffrey A. Becker

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter shows how studies of the American Constitutional founding of 1789, though focused on institutional solutions to the problem of ambition frequently overlook the character of political ambition generated by the Constitutional order. The Constitution, as a mechanism designed to alleviate threats posed by ambitious factions, ignores the necessity of cultivating—and educating—citizens’ ambitions and abilities to participate in the governance of public life. By adopting a Constitution seemingly at odds with many revolutionary Americans’ definition of themselves and their country citizens codify an electoral structure that relegates ambition to the pursuit of private self-interest, leaving the public spirited qualities of revolutionary America without a substantive institutional home. This chapter argues that the challenge today is to conceptualize forms of popular participation that link individual ambition for public recognition with collective democratic control.

Keywords:   ambition, Constitution, representation, democracy

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