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Walter Bagehot (1826—1877) political commentator, economist, and journalist


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Walter Bagehot, in The English Constitution, published in 1867, asserted that a constitution needed two parts, ‘one to excite and preserve the reverence of the population’ and the other to ‘employ that homage in the work of government’. The first he called ‘dignified’ and the second ‘efficient’. The monarch was the prime example of dignity in this sense and the cabinet of efficiency. Thus Queen Victoria, while lacking executive power, had an important constitutional role. The distinction has survived and has been often cited in the twentieth century in the development of systematic theories of politics (in which the parts of a system are seen as functional in respect of the whole) and in prescriptive debates about the merits of an executive presidency vis‐à‐vis those of monarchy and other forms of ‘symbolic’ head of state.

Lincoln Allison


Subjects: Social sciencesPolitics

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