The Mythology of Founding a State

Yussef Al Tamimi, 20 April 2015

“Can we rest with this? Can we allow foundational myths, myths of great age, to replace the rational need for legitimation?”

Paul Ricoeur, The Paradox of Authority


The social contract is a theoretical fiction. That is a fairly uncontroversial statement; nearly all political thinkers who have considered the social contract as the starting point of our modern political system have agreed that the contract is a fictional narrative. Nevertheless, the idea of this fictional point of reference has played a major role in developing political theories concerning the legitimization of state authority. For instance, in Hannah Arendt’s work On Revolution, her interpretation of the American Declaration of Independence – as containing the collective cry for freedom by the American people – is pivotal for understanding how modern political authority can be legitimized. Arendt’s narrative of the American Revolution, which Bonnie Honig calls Arendt’s ‘fable’, is needed to provide the state with political authority.

In this paper, I aim to explore the issue of the social contract as the foundational myth of the state. I will do this by linking the issue to the broader philosophical discussion on the role of myths in society. First, I will give a general introduction into the relation between myths and modernity. Second, Arendt’s view on the revolution as the foundation of political authority will be examined. Then I will discuss two responses to Arendt’s position: one by Bonnie Honig and Jacques Derrida, the other by Paul Ricoeur. Finally, I will take a critical look at how the specific myths that a society adheres to might influence the way we look at the state and the law, by discussing Martha Fineman’s critique of the social contract. In the conclusion I will give a brief recapitulation.

What are myths?

The Oxford Dictionary defines myth, in the first place, as “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events”. Many philosophers and historians have discussed the correct use of the term myth and have also aimed to show how the common attitude towards myths has changed over the centuries. The attitude toward myths in history can be described in three main stages. At first, myths used to play a central role in traditional societies and were pivotal to upholding the religions and traditions of many communities. With the Enlightenment of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, myths became increasingly suspect and people held a skeptical view toward fables and legends purported to be true. This process of the rationalization of public discourse led to what Max Weber famously coined the Entzauberung of the world. Hence, the main objective during this period was to debunk myths. This was the case until very recently, but the general attitude toward myths has taken one final turn. At present, the emphasis has shifted from debunking myths to rediscovering them as legitimate forms of discourse.[1] Myths are less seen as obstacles towards uncovering historical truth that need to be debunked, but have become objects of study in and of themselves. This is neatly exemplified by the contemporary definition of myth provided above as “a traditional story”, rather than a false or imaginary fable per se.[2] The attitude of some contractarians, like Arendt, toward the story of the social contract could also be seen in the same light: the story is regarded as a legitimate form of discourse to explain the state’s foundation, rather than a myth that has to be debunked.

A famous distinction made in the literature is the distinction between foundational and eschatological myths. The former are a class of myths that try to explain the present in terms of a creative act that took place in the past.[3] Examples that are often cited as foundational myths are the Roman foundation, the American narrative of the Founding Fathers and the Russian October Revolution. According to Tudor, foundational myths often concern an “actual and often quite recent historical event which has been dramatized for the purposes of political argument”.[4] Foundational myths are therefore often used to justify a certain status quo. On the other hand, eschatological myths are myths concerned with events that signify the end of the world. My focus in this paper will be exclusively on foundational myths.

One issue there seems to be a strong consensus about among theorists of myth is that every society is in need of myths. Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, states that myths are essential because they provide society with the founding energy that unifies them:

“Without myth, however, all cultures lose their healthy, creative, natural energy; only a horizon surrounded by myths encloses and unifies a cultural movement. (…) Even the state knows of no more powerful unwritten laws than the mythical fundament which guarantees its connection with religion and its emergence from mythical representations.”[5]

Thus, while the rationalization after the Enlightenment led to many of the traditional myths being debunked, mythical thinking has not been abolished. Rather, myths have survived, though their form has radically changed and they are sometimes entirely camouflaged.[6] Myths have, in a sense, survived the Entzauberung described by Weber, because they provide people with the morally coherent world that they strive for. As long as people strive to have a coherent moral world-view, they are in need of mythical thinking to attain this coherency.[7] In the same way, Ricoeur argues that every society has a hidden foundational mytho-poetic nucleus.[8] The purpose of this imaginary nucleus is to provide the grounds for the ritual actions of the members of the society today. Without this nucleus, society could not function.

Arendt on the American Revolution

One of the main issues in Arendt’s work is the disappearance of traditional authority in modern societies. Due to the loss of traditional hierarchy and religious institutions, the old sources that used to legitimate authority ceased to exist.[9] The same loss of authority applies in the realm of politics. Therefore, in her book On Revolution, Arendt aims to offer a lasting foundation for political authority, without having to appeal to religious or absolutist views.

Two notions of Arendt are central to the new foundation she offers: freedom and revolution. In Arendt’s view, freedom is the situation where a plurality of individuals acts collectively to shape their world in a public space. People only can be free in relation to each other, thus only in the realms of the political and action. Only there do people learn what freedom positively means and that it is more than simply the freedom from force, or ‘negative freedom’. Following Machiavelli, Arendt sees the relation between the world and people who act in light of the connection between virtù and fortuna. Virtù is the ability of man to “answer the opportunities the world opens up before him”; these opportunities are provided to man in the guise of fortuna.[10] Being ‘virtuous’ in the sense of virtù means to act, because when one ceases to act, he is not answering to the opportunities fortuna. Hence, Arendt likens virtù to the performing arts where the art is in the act itself and is gone when the act is over. Likewise, men are free only as long and insofar as they act: to be free and to act are the same.[11]

Arendt considers the American Revolution to be such an instance where a plurality of individuals acted collectively to shape their world. According to Arendt, this is the ideal type of a revolution: men create a new beginning through a joint political act. By acting together in unison, the American people made a mutual promise. This promise was the basis of the horizontal social contract that founded a new order and a new beginning.[12] At the same time, the promise is an act that is future-oriented in the sense that it also concerns future generations. The social contract thus has temporal consequences that stretch beyond the moment of its signature. Arendt says:

“There is an element of the world-building capacity of man in the human faculty of making and keeping promises. Just as promises and agreements deal with the future and provide stability in the ocean of future uncertainty where the unpredictable may break in from all sides, so the constituting, founding, and world-building capacities of man concern always not so much ourselves and our own time on earth as our ‘successor’, and ‘posterities’.”[13]

A further reason that made the American Revolution exemplary for Arendt, was that the aim of the revolution was strictly political; freedom was the ultimate and only motivation of the revolutionaries. Unlike the French Revolution, where the revolts were driven by social issues, the American Revolution was a strictly political movement. Therefore, the American Revolution succeeded in achieving its goal, because the actual goal of a revolution is the reestablishment of freedom. As a result, Arendt argues, the United States ended up having freedom, while France deteriorated into a violent regime with Napoleon ultimately restoring, once again, an autocratic system. Arendt says:

“The direction of the American Revolution remained committed to the foundation of freedom and the establishment of lasting institutions, and to those who acted in this direction nothing was permitted that would have been outside the range of civil law. (…)

Since there were no sufferings around them that could have aroused their passions, no overwhelmingly urgent needs that would have tempted them to submit to necessity, no pity to lead them astray from reason, the men of the American Revolution remained men of action from beginning to end, from the Declaration of Independence to the framing of the Constitution. (…) Their thought did not carry them any further than to the point of understanding government in the image of individual reason and construing the rule of government over the governed according to the age-old model of the rule of reason over the passions.”[14]

Hence, Arendt believes that the American revolutionaries established freedom for its own sake. In the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and in the correspondence between the Founding Father Arendt perceived “rare moments in history” in which political freedom was visible.[15] The American Revolution thus constituted a new order and became the foundation of the new state. The joint effort of the revolutionaries eliminated the need for a religious or absolutist foundation for the modern state; the joint action by the people is itself the foundation of the new order.

Honig on the circularity of the founding moment

One of the thinkers that has criticized Arendt for her representation of the founding moment of the state is Bonnie Honig. Using Jacques Derrida’s reading of the Declaration of Independence, Honig aims to show that Arendt’s account of the founding of the state is based on a fable. Honig notes that, for Arendt, the Declaration of Independence succeeds as a ‘performative’ act that creates a new order that does not rely on the ‘constative’ truths of gods or tradition. Honig places particular emphasis on Arendt’s analysis of the phrase “We hold these truths to be self-evident”. The term “We hold” indicates the creative moment that contains the people’s promise and that signifies the performative part of the phrase. What made the American Revolution unique was that this performative act had a priority over the constative part of the phrase (that “these truths are self-evident”). As a result, the foundation of the state and the source of its authority could ultimately be found in the people’s mutual pledge in the “We hold”.[16]

However, Honig argues that Arendt does not sufficiently discuss the conditions that allow people to make such promises.[17] The promise is a practice that presupposes a certain community of promisors who have shared understandings of what promises are. Honig turns to Derrida’s article Declarations of Independence to look for the preconditions of the promise. Rather than accepting the promise as an answer to the problem of founding, Derrida sees it as a moment of a leap in which the community of the “we” itself first comes into being. However, this “we” also seems like it must have already been there, and thus creates an undecidable moment between the constative and the performative. Derrida states that there has to be an obscure moment in which the “we” both preexists the Declaration and comes into being with it. In Derrida’s own words: “The signature invents the signer.”[18] Therefore, there cannot have been a signer, by right, before the Declaration existed. ‘The people’ who signed it and their signature are a fable:

“There was no signer, by right, before the text of the Declaration which itself remains the producer and guarantor of its own signature. By this fabulous event, by this fable which implies the structure of the trace and is only in truth possible thanks to the inadequation to itself of a present, a signature gives itself a name.”[19]

The foundation thus becomes a kind of circular moment. From this point of view of Derrida’s analysis, Honig sees Arendt as unjustifiably longing for a “purely performative act” that founds the state.[20] Derrida shows that no act of foundation possesses resources adequate to guarantee itself. Every foundation necessarily needs some external, systemically illegitimate guarantee to work, because in every system, there is a moment or place that the system cannot account for.[21] According to Honig, Arendt tries to fill this gap with a fable, her fable of the American Revolution and founding.[22] With this fable, Arendt looks to recover the American revolutionary spirit, but Honig states that Arendt invents this spirit. Her rendering of the American Revolution is, as is the case with all legitimating fables, a way to “prohibit further inquiry into the origins of the system and protect its center of illegitimacy from the scrutiny of prying eyes”.[23]

As strict as the opposition between Derrida and Arendt seems, Honig tries to reconcile the two views by stating that Arendt’s founding moment also has a constative aspect that should be acknowledged. Honig suggests the concept of ‘resistibility’ as a way to bridge the gap between the two views. Whereas God or absolute laws are irresistible, Honig suggests that there can be a constative that is resistible at the same time.[24] This fits within Arendt’s framework, because she links the state’s foundation to the practice of augmentation, in which the state maintains its revolutionary spirit by “keeping its beginning always present”.[25] The act of founding should resist the urge to anchor itself in an absolute and its spirit should be kept alive by continuous augmenting and amending. Thus, the “We hold” of the Declaration indicates a new subjective orientation: with this formulation the Founding Fathers put a distance between themselves and the absolute truth. Instead of irresistible truths, they hold that state authority is based on an intersubjective agreement. This agreement grounds the modern state.

Ricoeur’s multiple foundation

Paul Ricoeur argues for a version of the state’s foundation that is different from both Arendt and Honig. Ricoeur has written extensively on myths and the power of narrative to provide people with a sense of identity and cohesion. He states that every society is in need of myths to provide the grounds for the actions of the members of the society today. Telling and repeating myths is a way of preserving, in spite of all the changes in society, the invisible roots of a community.[26]

In his essay The Paradox of Authority, Ricoeur deals with the paradox of establishing a hierarchy among equal people. This paradox ultimately leads to the question of the legitimation of authority, i.e. where authority comes from in the last instance, which Ricoeur calls ‘naked authority’.[27] In answering the question of legitimation, Ricoeur takes a different route than both Arendt and Honig. Whereas Arendt and Honig depart from the concern that the modern world is caught in a crisis of legitimation and that modernity is in need of a new source of authority, Ricoeur denies this concern. Rather, he argues that authority has transformed itself, while partly preserving something of what it used to be.[28]

Ricoeur distinguishes between two types of authority: enunciative and institutional authority. On the one hand, there is the symbolic power, of an enunciator or an ‘author’, to engender belief and to persuade, through a text, an assertion. On the other hand, there is the power connected with an institution as the source of legitimacy for those who exercise authority within it.[29] Thus, the place of the origin of the process of legitimation is split into, on the one side, discourse and, on the other side, the institution. Ricoeur argues that what has taken place in modern times is not the replacement of an authority that was largely enunciative by one that is only institutional, but rather the replacement of one historical configuration determined by a pairing of enunciation and institution by another configuration of the same two terms.[30] According to Ricoeur, there has never been a purely enunciative authority with no institutional authority, and in modernity there is no purely institutional authority without the symbolic support of some enunciative order. Therefore, the enunciative order has also remained a source of authority in modern times.

Ricoeur moves on to demonstrate that institutional authority does not stem from a single foundation. According to Ricoeur, the church, an institutional authority, did not derive its authority exclusively from biblical scripture, a source of the enunciative order, but also owed its authority to a strictly political origin of authority, namely the Roman imperium.[31] Thus, the authority of the church had a religious as well as a political foundation. Ricoeur, like Arendt, regards the Roman political authority as stemming from the foundation of Rome. The founding event, despite being a myth, transmits a ‘founding energy’ that establishes political authority:

“The tradition of authority is identical with the authority of tradition in the sense of a transmission from the origin of the foundation itself, from the founding event. This legitimation was to be denounced as mythical, yes. But, precisely, the question is whether this authority does not proceed from a founding myth, the myth of a founding event, connected to that of founding characters, such as Moses, Lycurgus, Solon.”[32]

Thus, the energy of such a founding event has the power to augment political authority, but it is not its only source. Ricoeur applies the same logic to modern states. The myth of the foundation of the state is a source of authority, but on its own it is not sufficient as a source. We cannot allow, Ricoeur says, that foundational myths replace the rational need for legitimation. Therefore, there have to be more foundations alongside the foundational myth to base authority on. We have to accept that there is a multiple foundation, “a diversity of religious and secular, rational and Romantic tradition, that mutually recognize one another as cofoundational”.[33] Therefore, a single, strictly political foundation is not enough to base modern authority on. Ricoeur allows myth to have its place in the state’s foundation, but authority needs a multiple foundation with other motivations that are recognized as cofoundational to the foundational myth.

Applying Ricoeur’s multiple foundation to Arendt’s view of the American Revolution raises the question whether by disconnecting the political from the social, Arendt unjustifiably reduces the founding moment to only the political. Whereas under Ricoeur’s position the political and the social can both be sources of authority, Arendt is obstructed from recognizing multiple foundations, because she tries to find a pure political foundation for state authority, rather than one that is influenced by non-political motivations. By not recognizing these non-political motivations, she overlooks important social conditions that were necessary for the American Revolution. Arendt repeatedly asserts that the Americans were ‘fortunate’ that no social necessity constrained their quest for freedom[34], but this is rather contentious. Her historical interpretation of the revolution leaves out important social factors, such as the role of the British Tea Act, which prompted strong tensions in the Americas in the run-up to the revolution. Leaving this social-economic dimension out of her interpretation makes her fable of the American Revolution, in a sense, even more fabulous.

Honig seemingly cannot dodge Ricoeur’s critique either, because she also tries to find the complete foundation of authority in the political. Despite the fact that she manages to provide a ‘resistible’ foundation, her account of the founding moment is ultimately a one-dimensional fable like Arendt’s. Honig criticizes Arendt for not considering the preconditions that allow people to make promises, but Honig’s own account of these preconditions does not allow for any other explanation than the political either. Her version of the founding moment does not take into account the plurality of the foundation that is driven by multiple factors.

A final important point that follows from Ricoeur’s work on myths is that there is a duty to revise foundational myths. Despite his acceptance that myths are an integral part of each society, his hermeneutics also involve the continuous assessment of the myths that underlie our society. Ricoeur remarks: “Myth will always be with us, but we must always approach it critically.”[35] This is so because there is always the possibility of a ‘perversion of myth’. Myths have a powerful symbol function and can take on forms that become deviant and dangerous, as is the case, for example, with the myth of the sacrificial scapegoat which can lead to racism and violence.[36] We must therefore always critically assess the content of each myth. This point becomes central in the next chapter.

Fineman’s critique of the social contract myth

At this point, we have discussed Arendt’s account of the founding of the state and the critiques of Honig, Derrida and Ricoeur. In this chapter, I aim to show how the content of a foundational myth might affect a nation’s law and policy. To demonstrate this, I will make use of the analysis of Martha Fineman. In her book The Autonomy Myth, Fineman argues that the American social policy towards the family leads to inequality and the disregard of dependent family members. What is relevant for this paper is how Fineman tries to show that the way the myth of the social contract is constructed, namely pivoting around the autonomy of the individual, leads to assumptions in policymaking that cause unfair policies to occur.

Fineman reiterates that the social contract theory in its modern form does not purport to be an account of the historic origins of our modern political system. Rather, the social contract is a framework for thinking about legitimacy and political obligation.[37] However, Fineman notes that the social contract is a special kind of foundational myth, because its function is not merely inspirational. The underlying elements of a contractual relationship are that two or more autonomous individuals with capacity voluntarily agree to be bound by a mutually bargained agreement. As a result, a reference to the social contract is regarded as an implicit claim about the justice of existing societal institutions and obligations and carries with it the threat that a breach of the contract’s terms may end in the application of sanctions.[38] Therefore, the terms of the social contract are not only inspirational, but are potentially coercive. This is a necessary element of the social contract in order for it to function as the basis for the application of law and as a foundation for political authority.

Fineman describes autonomy as being part of the language of the social contract myth. The fiction of a social contract implies that the current situation is fair, because autonomous individual members of society implicitly consent to it through their participation in that society. Politicians often use this language of autonomy to justify the way they create policies:

“By evoking the language of foundational myths – words such as ‘autonomy’, ‘independence’, ‘justice’ and ‘liberty’ – political players may shield a very radical agenda from societal scrutiny.”[39]

Thus, the modern social contract myth has caused autonomy to play a central role in modern policy. Autonomous individuals interact with the state and its institutions, as well as with each other, through processes of negotiation, bargaining and consent. Society is conceived as a collection of self-interested individuals who manage their independently acquired and overlapping resources.[40] The way we come to perceive a liberal relationship between the state and the individual is a manifestation of the autonomy ideal. The individual’s demand for liberty is defined as the freedom to make choices, the right to contract. Laws, constitutions and treaties reinforce this idea by letting individual rights define the relationship between the government and the citizen. Individual liberty interests are what are protected and independence entails being left alone to satisfy our wants and needs without undue restraint.[41]

According to Fineman, the image of the human being that is encapsulated in the autonomous subject is reductive and fails to capture the complicated nature of the human condition. She argues that every human being is born physically and socially dependent on its environment, and remains dependent for the rest of his life. The essential characteristic of human beings is therefore not autonomy, but rather vulnerability.[42] In Fineman’s view, the ideology of autonomy has produced institutional arrangements that fail to take into account the vulnerability inherent in the human condition. Vulnerability is treated as a private matter with which the state has no legitimate concern, and state interference is seen as a violation of the meritocratic principles of individual autonomy and an encroachment on the freedom of contract.[43] This has resulted in increasing social, economic and political inequality between people.

Fineman’s argument is that the social contract ‘needs to be reworked’ so that it takes into account the dependent and vulnerable nature of man.[44] In a Ricoeurian sense, what she tries to do is to critically assess the content of the social contract myth. Indeed, Fineman notes that since we are born into the social contract, rather than that we have actively been a part of the contract bargaining, this hermeneutic duty is even bigger.[45] We have to reconsider the equity of the existing social assumptions and adapt the social contract concept accordingly, in order to deal with the challenges that are presented by our contemporary society.

Of course, while Fineman’s critique does raise valuable points, it is not without its weaknesses. For instance, it remains doubtful whether her vulnerability thesis offers a view of man that is more correct than the autonomy view. People are indeed physically and socially vulnerable, but at the same time human beings are free in the sense that they have freedom of thought and free will.[46] The two characteristics are not mutually exclusive, and the notion of human vulnerability is as subjective and open-ended as autonomy. Human beings are, in fact, cultural beings who construct institutions, languages and cultures in order to control their nature, be it their inherent vulnerability or their inherent autonomy. In this sense, Fineman’s vulnerability approach is an alternate view on how to organize human nature, competing at the same level as autonomy-based models of justice. An interesting question for further study is whether it is possible to distill principles of social equality from the mere fact that human beings are cultural beings.


The aim of this paper was to delve deeper into the issue of the social contract as the foundational myth of the state. I have discussed the way in which Arendt retold the story of the American Revolution in order to ground modern political authority in a foundation that is not in need of a religious or absolutist belief. Through Derrida, Honig criticized Arendt for not sufficiently taking into account the conditions that allow people to make a social contract. Honig suggests that the founding moment is a circular moment where ‘the people’ signed and became authorized to sign at the same time. Next, I have shown that Ricoeur argues for a multiple foundation where the foundational political myth is only one of the sources of authority. This is in contrast to both Arendt and Honig who try to base modern authority solely on the basis of the political. Finally, I have discussed how the content of the social contract myth might affect law and policy. Fineman is one of many theorists who argue that the social contract is inadequate as a foundation of modern policy, because it focuses solely on the person as an autonomous individual. She convincingly argues that the social contract myth has to be reworked so that it takes into account the vulnerability and communality of the human being.

One question, however, remains unanswered, and it is the question of truth: how do myths and truth relate to one another? Do myths always have to contain a fantastic element, or can they be composed of a true depiction of actual historical events, or is this entire question only secondary and do we have to approach myths primarily as explanatory narratives (as discussed in chapter two)? Either way, the discomfort that Ricoeur expresses in the questions that I have quoted at the beginning of this paper remains, in my view, unanswered, even by Ricoeur himself. Although he suggests a multiple foundation, the foundational myth remains an important part of his theory, so the question of truth is shifted to this mytho-poetic nucleus. It seems that a society ultimately needs to get its ‘founding energy’ from a mythical narrative that is unexplainable. Hence, we are still embedded in myths, despite the rationalization of modernity. There seems to be a rather pragmatic approach as to whether this narrative is actually based on fact or fiction; the myth that can best explain the workings of our political system, or the system that we pursue, i.e. the myth that is most ‘effective’, is considered to be correct. Of course, the danger that is inherent in such an approach is that myths become a self-justificatory instrument with which we can easily justify the status quo. Another option is to abandon this quest altogether and accept that the complexity of human nature does not allow for a state foundation that is based on truth, as advocated by this Dutch thinker:

“De ondoorgrondelijkheid van de staat hangt naar mij voorkomt ten nauwste samen met de ondoorgrondelijkheid van de menselijke geest (…) In het politieke denken bleef de machtsfactor steeds een rol van grote betekenis spelen, terwijl daarnaast het politieke ideaal een dominerende invloed uitoefent. In dit politieke ideaal gaan diep-verankerde verlangens en behoeften schuil, benevens nauwelijks gemotiveerde sympathieën en antipathieën, haat en jaloezie. Hier in dit domein van macht en verlangen, aantrekking en afstoting, haat en jaloezie, dat zich rationeel nauwelijks laat benaderen, ligt de oorzaak dat het functioneren van de staat en het staatsbestel zelf zo gebrekkig gefundeerd moesten blijven.”[47]

More reading on the relation between history, truth and myth is needed to flesh out this subject.


Arendt, H. Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, London: Penguin Books 1961.

Arendt, H. On Revolution, London: Penguin Books 1963.

Cruz, L. and Frijhoff, W. (eds.), Myth in History, History in Myth, Leiden-Boston: Brill 2009.

Derrida, J. ‘Declarations of Independence’, New Political Science, Volume 7, Issue 1, 1986.

Eliade, M. Myth and Reality, New York: Harper & Row 1964.

Fineman, M. ‘Equality, Autonomy, and the Vulnerable Subject in Law and Politics’, in: M. Fineman & A. Grear (eds.), Vulnerability: Reflections on a New Ethical Foundation for Law and Politics, Farnham: Ashgate 2013.

Fineman, M. The Autonomy Myth, The New Press: New York 2004.

Honig, B. ‘Declarations of Independence: Arendt and Derrida on the Problem of Founding a Republic’, The American Political Science Review, vol. 85 (1991).

Kleijn, A. Staat en mythe, Deventer: Kluwer 1985.

Nietzsche, F. The Birth of Tragedy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999.

Ricoeur, P. ‘Myth as the Bearer of Possible Worlds’ (interview 1978), in: R. Kearney, On Paul Ricoeur, Boston: Ashgate 2004.

Ricoeur, P. ‘The Crisis of Authority’, in: R. Kearney, On Paul Ricoeur, Boston: Ashgate 2004.

Ricoeur, P. ‘The Paradox of Authority’, in: P. Ricoeur, Reflections on the Just, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2007.

Tudor, H. Political Myth, London: Pall Mall Press 1972.

    1. L. Cruz and W. Frijhoff (eds.), Myth in History, History in Myth, Leiden-Boston: Brill 2009, p. 1-2.
    1. Ibid., p. 1.
    1. H. Tudor, Political Myth, London: Pall Mall Press 1972, p. 91.
    1. Ibid.
    1. F. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999, p. 108.
    1. M. Eliade, Myth and Reality, New York: Harper & Row 1964, p. 113.
    1. Tudor, Political Myth, p. 114.
    1. P. Ricoeur, ‘Myth as the Bearer of Possible Worlds’ (interview 1978), in: R. Kearney, On Paul Ricoeur, Boston: Ashgate 2004, p. 118.
    1. H. Arendt, On Revolution, London: Penguin Books 1963, p. 117.
    1. H. Arendt, Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, London: Penguin Books 1961, p. 151.
    1. Ibid., p. 151.
    1. Arendt, On Revolution, p. 169-171.
    1. Ibid., p. 175.
    1. Ibid., p. 92 & 95.
    1. Ibid., p. 130.
    1. B. Honig, ‘Declarations of Independence: Arendt and Derrida on the Problem of Founding a Republic’, The American Political Science Review, vol. 85 (1991), p. 99-101.
    1. Ibid., p. 103.
    1. J. Derrida, ‘Declarations of Independence’, New Political Science, Volume 7, Issue 1, 1986, p. 10.
    1. Ibid.
    1. Honig, ‘Declarations of Independence: Arendt and Derrida on the Problem of Founding a Republic’, p. 106.
    1. Ibid.
    1. Ibid., p. 107.
    1. Ibid. Arendt does, in fact, address the circularity of the founding moment in On Revolution, but seems to think of her own version of the American Revolution as not being a fable, but a factual representation of what had happened during the revolution: “(…) it is futile to search for an absolute to break the vicious circle in which all beginning is inevitably caught, because this ‘absolute’ lies in the very act of beginning itself. In a way, this has always been known, though it was never fully articulated in conceptual thought for the simple reason that the beginning itself, prior to the era of revolution, has always been shrouded in mystery and remained an object of speculation. The foundation which now, for the first time, had occurred in broad daylight to be witnessed by all who were present had been, for thousands of years, the object of foundation legends in which imagination tried to reach out into a past and to an event which memory could not reach.” See On Revolution, p. 204.
    1. Honig, ‘Declarations of Independence: Arendt and Derrida on the Problem of Founding a Republic’, p. 109.
    1. Ibid., p. 110.
    1. Ricoeur, ‘Myth as the Bearer of Possible Worlds’, p. 118 and P. Ricoeur, ‘The Crisis of Authority’, in: R. Kearney, On Paul Ricoeur, Boston: Ashgate 2004, p. 165.
    1. P. Ricoeur, ‘The Paradox of Authority’, in: P. Ricoeur, Reflections on the Just, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2007, p. 92.
    1. Ibid., p. 94.
    1. Ibid.
    1. Ibid., p. 95.
    1. Ibid., p. 97.
    1. Ibid., p. 99.
    1. Ibid., p. 105.
    1. See e.g. Arendt, On Revolution, p. 157 and 165.
    1. Ricoeur, ‘Myth as the Bearer of Possible Worlds’, p. 120.
    1. Ibid. Tudor also warns for the possibility of illusions and deception in political myths as a result of the (sometimes hidden) goals of the myth-maker; see Tudor, Political Myth, p. 132-133.
    1. M. Fineman, The Autonomy Myth, The New Press: New York 2004, p. 211.
    1. Ibid., p. 220-221.
    1. Ibid., p. 16,
    1. M. Fineman, ‘Equality, Autonomy, and the Vulnerable Subject in Law and Politics’, in: M. Fineman & A. Grear (eds.), Vulnerability: Reflections on a New Ethical Foundation for Law and Politics, Farnham: Ashgate 2013, p. 17.
    1. Fineman, The Autonomy Myth, p. 17.
    1. Fineman, ‘Equality, Autonomy, and the Vulnerable Subject in Law and Politics’, p. 17.
    1. Ibid.
    1. Fineman, The Autonomy Myth, p. 210.
    1. Ibid., p. 222.
    1. Of course there remains an ongoing academic discussion in many disciplines on whether free will exists or not, but this discussion falls outside the scope of this paper.
  1. A. Kleijn, Staat en mythe, Deventer: Kluwer 1985, p. 4-6.

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