The American Founding Documents and Democratic Social Change: A Constructivist Grounded Theory

Dissertation, Walden University (2023)
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Existing social disparities in the United States are inconsistent with the promise of democracy; therefore, there was a need for critical conceptualization of the first principles that undergird American democracy and the genesis of democratic social change in America. This constructivist grounded theory study aimed to construct a grounded theory that provides an understanding of the process of American democratic social change as it emerged from the nation’s founding documents. A post hoc polytheoretical framework including Foucault’s, Bourdieu’s, and Marx and Engels’s theories of power was used to understand power dynamics. The research question focused on understanding the process of democratic social change in America. The sample comprised the Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, and the U.S. Constitution. The documents were retrieved from the National Archives and Library of Congress. The data analysis plan incorporated successive comparison, situational and dramaturgical analysis, deconstruction, and perspective taking as strategies. The result was the construction of a democratic social change process theory preceded by five grounded theories: (a) first principles of democracy, (b) first principles of democracy conceptual framework, (c) socio-ethical principles of democracy, (d) demoralizing process, and (e) either-or approach to democracy. Positive social change implications include applying a democratic social change process to future social change endeavors across domains and levels of analysis, a normative framework for a republican form of government, and a tool to analyze and minimize the latent consequences of social justice policies.


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