Fernando Atria

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We live under the domain of dead ideas. To a considerable extent, our political language seems to be meaningless. What is the meaning of, for example, “Sovereignty rests essentially with the Nation, and it is exercised by the people[1]”? How can we say, without naïvety, that law is the will of the people, and that the people is the bearer of constituent power? When and how (if at all) can we say that a constitution imposed by a dictator or an occupying power is the people’s? This is what I would like to discuss in this paper: not the answers to these questions, but how to make them intelligible.

[1] Article 5 of the Chilean Constitution. All references to articles hereafter must be understood as references to the Chilean constitutional text, unless stated otherwise.


Paper presented at SELA 2011 in San José, Costa Rica, as part of the panel on “Faith and Politics.”