In general, the pluralist interpretation seems to appeal to those scholars, whether liberal or conservative, who perceive in The Federalist intimations of the American political system as it is today. So, depending on whom we believe, Publius is either a positive nationalist who aims to submerge the states and enable the federal government to take vigorous action against partial interests on behalf of the whole people.

 

He is an antinationalist who wants to restrain the central government and to preserve the states as expressions of the popular will; or he is a negative nationalist who wants to submerge the states because they are expressions of the popular will and to establish a weak federal government that will not permit the whole people to take action against minority interest groups. Anyone seeking to follow in the footsteps of the Publii will find a trail that seems to lead in several directions at once. Why is this the case?

 

This confusion over the meaning of The Federalist derives from certain problems intrinsic to the tract itself, and also from the biases of later critics. The work was not wholly straightforwardly written, and it therefore requires much commentary in order to be understood properly. Yet what commentary there has been, alas, has often been the reverse of helpful.