CHOICE July 2014 vol. 51 no. 11
51-6425 JF229 2012-45392 CIP
Cameron, Maxwell. Strong constitutions: social-cognitive origins of the separation of powers. Oxford, 2013. 255p bibl index afp ISBN 9780199987443, $65.00 Cameron, Maxwell (author)
In this imaginative and readable book, Cameron (Univ. of British Columbia) provides a learned defense of the separation of powers. While not disputing the importance of the separation of powers as a source of restraint in democratic theory, the author contends that the concept allows for collective action, which can promote and sustain democratic regimes. Other conceptions of the separation of powers are integrated into his critique, as well as the importance of divided power in promoting the survival of any government. The separation of powers, if rightly understood, actually strengthens regimes. The refinement of democratic institutions is also based on the "social-cognitive" aspects of politics, especially the use of language that encourages "collective organization." The value of a written constitution is yet another extension of this analysis. Other factors in addition to language, including collective bargaining and "democratized" technologies, can aid the evolution of the "social-cognitive" contribution to the separation of powers. For the nonspecialist, the book also contains many useful assessments of a wide range of political thinkers, from Aristotle to F. A. Hayek. The tome is one of the most insightful defenses of the separation of powers to appear in many years. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections.
--H. L. Cheek Jr., East Georgia State College