# LEGAL THEORY /// In Praise of the Essence of the American Second Amendment: The Importance of Self-Contradiction in a System


Despite what the title indicates, I have not been convinced by the National Riffles Association’s arguments against any forms of legislation to control the commerce of guns in the United States. These arguments are only to develop a simulacrum of debate of ideas, while a heavy — and apparently successful — lobbying is being made to influence the legislative power. In the American second amendment, what I am interested in lies in what I suppose as its implicit essence: the right for a people to have the legal means to overthrow its government if the latter betrays its legitimacy. Of course, in 1789 when the Bill of Rights was voted as a supplement of the 1787 U.S. Constitution, firearms seemed indeed the appropriate means to preserve such a right. Nowadays, however, the fire power of a national army — the American one in particular — is so important that revolutions cannot be longer thought a model in which a citizen armed militia has the fire power to fight a regular army. Weapons are therefore less important than the constitutional legitimacy of revolt against tyranny. If such a legitimacy was indeed the essence of the second amendment, it should be rewritten to correspond to its historical context.

The American second amendment is regrettably not so explicit as far as this right is concerned. A historical document from the same era, on the contrary, could not be more explicit: this is the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1793 that served as the Constitution of the First Republic. The last article of this text stipulates the following:

Article 35: When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for each portion of the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties.

Such an explicit piece of legislation — insurrection is not only a right but also a duty — can be easily explained by the historical context of that time between the 1789 revolution and the declaration of the First Republic in 1793. Nevertheless, it carries a universal and timeless principle of self-contradiction that is interesting to look at : the same document that is establishing the legitimacy of a form of government also describes the legitimacy of the potential means that would dissolve it.

What is fundamental in politics is also important in any form of system, including the ones that architects design on a daily basis, whether they are spatial,  material, social, mechanical or ecological. Each system, in order not to unfold a totalitarian power over its subjects, — whatever they might be — requires to carry within itself the principle of self-contradiction. Nowadays, many architects claim to have respected a creative consistent logic in the conception of their projects. This logic, whether it is thoughtfully conceived or not, incorporates the potentiality of an excess of power if its functional scheme is not contradicted by another logic. Inserting this other logic as an anomaly in the function of the first logical scheme is a mean to insure that this contradiction is continuously sustained. The entire difficulty to determine the degree of self-contradiction a system should incorporate in order to remain operative in its essence without exceeding its power, constitutes the problem that each designer — and law maker for that matter — should be attempting to respond to.