What is Popular Sovereignty?

Definition and meaning of popular sovereignty: Popular sovereignty is the principle that the authority of a state and its government is created and sustained by the consent of its people, through their elected representatives. Popular sovereignty means that the ultimate source of government power lies with the people.

This principle is enshrined in many democratic constitutions and is a key element in the political philosophy of republicanism. It contrasts sharply with the political systems of monarchies or oligarchies, where power is held by a single ruler or a small group of individuals.

The term "popular sovereignty" comes from the Enlightenment period, and gained prominence in the late 18th century as philosophers and political theorists debated the origins and legitimacy of governmental authority. It played a significant role in the American Revolution and the founding of the United States. In fact, the idea of popular sovereignty was immortalized in the preamble to the Constitution:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

In practice, popular sovereignty is exercised through voting and the electoral process, where citizens have the right to choose their representatives and voice their opinions on public policy. It also relates to the concept of majority rule.

In contemporary politics, popular sovereignty underscores the importance of engaging citizens in the political process, advocating for transparent and fair elections, and ensuring that the government's actions reflect the will of the people.


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