Onderzoek Vergelijkend Staatsrecht

Contested Constitutions: exploring the foundations of modern democracies

Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

In the beginning of the 21st century, the notion of constitutions as the foundation of democracy has become essentially contested. The growing importance of regional and global networks and the fragmentation of societies increasingly challenge the ideal of an all-embracing set of foundational norms for the democratic nation state. Recently, the crisis of constitutionalism has come most clearly to the fore in the European Union. The French and Dutch 'no' to the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe put an end to the ratification process. Moreover, the very notion of a European Constitution has become highly contested: no longer is the question what constitution Europe should adopt, but whether it needs a constitution at all. In reaction to these events, a fierce debate on the future of Europe has been reopened. Opponents of constitutionalization emphasize that the Union cannot adopt a constitution because there is no European polity. Supporters of the European constitution reject this argument as old-fashioned nationalist thinking. This confusion has serious consequences for the relationship between Member States and the Union leading to mind boggling situations at all levels, with serious implications for day-to-day policy making. We aim at overcoming the present deadlock by adopting a completely different approach with regard to the function of constitutions in democracies. The main thesis of this project is that political language is constitutive for the identity of the polity as it chrystalizes out in the polity's constitution. On this basis, we carry out a multidisciplinary comparative historical research on the constitutionalization processes in the United States of America, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and the European Union, focusing on the rhetoric of constitutional discourse. In a learning history, carried out in major Dutch institutions involved in the constitutionalization of Europe, the results of this research will be made available to Dutch policy makers. By using the lessons of the past for analyzing contemporary political problems, we explicitly seek to meet the demands of the programme 'Contested Democracy' to provide usable knowledge.


Research Group on Constitution-Making and Constitutional Change

The International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL)

The International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) convenes a Research Group for the study of constitution-making and constitutional change from a comparative aspect. The group assembles constitutional scholars interested in the wide variety of issues stemming from constitutional design making throughout the world. The group aims to explore the procedures used for the enactment of new constitutions and for formal constitutional amendment, as well as the substantive content of constitutional change, and to address issues of constitutional design.

You find the official blog of the research group on constitution-making and constitutional change here. The blog provides a forum for interaction and discussion on all topics related to constitution-making and constitutional change. This way constitutional lawyers can share information and analyses of the ongoing developments in their countries and the relevant theoretical debates. This blog is open to all.