Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 187–208 | Cite as

The multi-faceted covenant: The biblical approach to the problem of organizations, constitutions, and liberty as reflected in the thought of Johannes Althusius

  • Daniel J. Elazar


Modern theories of politics have tended to emphasize either the individual or the state and have left little or no room for mediating institutions. In the postmodern epoch there has been a rediscovery of the complexity of the fabric of civil society involving more than merely the individual and the state. An appropriate systematic theory needs to be developed to accomodate this new understanding. A good starting point is that segment of political theory whose origins lie in biblical political thought. On the eve of the modern epoch at the end of the sixteenth century, an early political scientist, Johannes Althusius, developed his understanding of biblical political thought into a systematic theory of the polity, published asPolitica Methodice Digesta and in other works. Defining politics as “the art of associating men for the purpose of establishing, cultivating and conserving social life among them,” Althusius builds a politics based on communication or sharing of things, services and right (jus) through simple and private and mixed and public association including the family, the collegium, and the particular and universal public associations. His work emphasizes that all politics involves association, covenant and consent, and rejecting the idea of the reified state Althusius offers an important starting point for building a postmodern theory of political and social organization.


Social Organization Systematic Theory Civil Society Economic Theory Social Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© George Mason University 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel J. Elazar
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Bar Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael
  2. 2.The Center for the Study of FederalismTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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