Johannes Althusius: Between Secular Federalism and the Religious State

Authored by: Bettina Koch

The Ashgate Research Companion to Federalism

Print publication date:  August  2009
Online publication date:  April  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754671312
eBook ISBN: 9781315612966
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043454


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Johannes Althusius’s (1557/1563(?)–1638) federal theory has a somewhat peculiar status within the literature on federalism. While Otto von Gierke celebrated Althusius as a thinker who systemizes existing federal doctrines and condenses them into a coherent theory (Gierke 1981 [1980], 243–4), Carl Joachim Friedrich, the editor of the (incomplete) Latin edition of Althusius’s Politica, characterizes Althusius’s theory as “consocialism” rather than “federalism” (Friedrich 1932, lxxxviii). Patrick Riley (Riley 1976, 34) even doubts that it is justified to call Althusius’s theory “federalism.” Riley argues that Althusius describes and defends “a system of medieval constitutionalism.” Riley’s assessment of Althusius’s theory, however, is based on a narrow understanding of federalism, which is geared towards the American federal model (Hueglin 1979, 40).

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