Northwestern Events Calendar


Kings as Judges: Power, Justice, and the Origins of Parliaments

When: Friday, November 17, 2023
12:15 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Graduate Students

Contact: Ariel Sowers   (847) 491-7454

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic


Please join the Comparative Politics Workshop as they host Deborah Boucoyannis, lecturer at George Washington University.

How did representative institutions become the central organs of governance in Western Europe? What enabled this distinctive form of political organization and collective action that has proved so durable and influential? The answer has typically been sought either in the realm of ideas, in the Western tradition of individual rights, or in material change, especially the complex interaction of war, taxes, and economic growth. Common to these strands is the belief that representation resulted from weak ruling powers needing to concede rights to powerful social groups. Boucoyannis argues instead that representative institutions were a product of state strength, specifically the capacity to deliver justice across social groups. Enduring and inclusive representative parliaments were formed when rulers could exercise power over the most powerful actors in the land and compel them to serve and, especially, to tax them. The language of rights deemed distinctive to the West emerged in response to more effectively imposed collective obligations, especially on those with the most power.

Deborah Boucoyannis specializes in comparative politics, especially the theoretical and historical origins of liberalism and the state.  Her book, published with Cambridge University Press, takes a historical approach to a contemporary question: How did parliamentary regimes emerge and what are the institutional preconditions to state building?  The book focuses on the constitutive role of courts and systems of law, as opposed to geopolitical or economic explanations. It received the Honorable Mention for the APSA European Politics and Society's Best Book Award and was shortlisted for the Gregory Luebbert Best Book Award. It is based on a dissertation that received the APSA Ernst Haas Best Dissertation Award in European Politics and the Seymour Martin Lipset Best Dissertation Award from the Society for Comparative Research.

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