Three Paths to Constitutionalism

There are three paths to constitutionalism in the modern world. Under the first, revolutionary-outsiders use the Constitution to commit their new regime to the principles proclaimed during their previous struggle: India, South Africa, Italy, France, and Poland have followed this path. Under the second, establishment-insiders use the Constitution to make strategic concessions to disrupt revolutionary movements before they can gain power. Britain serves as paradigmatic for this “Commonwealth” model of constitutionalism. Under the third, ordinary citizens remain passive while political and social elites construct a new Constitution. Germany and Japan, Brazil and Spain provide variations on this theme. Different paths generate different legitimation problems. The first volume in this series will be published by Harvard University Press in 2017 and deals with the revolutionary path – comparing the ways in which Nehru/Mandela/De Gasperi/De Gaulle/Walesa dealt with similar challenges in constitutionalizing the fundamental principles advanced by their respective Resistance-movements, and how these founding regimes experienced a series of “succession crises” as the revolutionary generation left the political stage. While at STIAS Ackerman will discuss his book with the South African scholarly community, and proceed with research on the next volume.

Project leader(s):
  • Bruce Ackerman (Law School, Yale University)

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