The concept of world and the American Revolution


  • Sean Gaston The University of Melbourne



Concepts of World, World and Politics, Kant, Arendt, Derrida, the American Revolution, the American Constitution


What happens to the concept of world when it is ‘put to work’ in a political event that attempts to constitute a new world?  This article uses the American Revolution (1765-1791) to examine the relation between concepts of world and politics.  Evoking Kant, whose writings were contemporary with the events in America, and touching on Arendt and Derrida, this essay suggests that the American Revolution relies on a concept of world that is at once geographical and ideal, limited and excessive.  The variation of meanings of world in the midst of these political events, especially in the year-long constitutional debates, suggest that the attempt to create a new kind of political world also transformed the traditional concept of world itself.  This is not only due to the divided sovereignty that distinguished the new republic; it is also the creation of a political structure that is always more and less than a world.