Constitutionalism and Democracy

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Course Description: 

This course explores the meaning of constitutionalism, its basic features, and its relationship to democracy. It is assumed that the central categories of constitutionalism – basic rights, the rule of law, limited government, constitutional judiciary, the constitution – are relevant for political science and political theory. While the course is organized largely around fundamental categories rather than country-specific case studies, the readings and lectures will raise topics that students are encouraged to apply to the analysis of their own or other countries, both in seminar discussions and in written work.

We begin with a conceptual and normative inquiry into the notions of constitutionalism and constitution. Next we discuss the political and legal aspects of constitution-making. We proceed by exploring basic elements of the constitutional content: fundamental rights and foundational principles of formal institutional arrangements. Following the premise that the constitutional text matters to the extent it effectively promotes liberty, equality, the rule of law, and democracy, we will pay attention to both ‘law in books’ and ‘law in action’. In this context, we will also explore the ambivalent relationship between culture and constitutionalism. Upon these analyses, we will address three issues that feature importantly in the contemporary constitutionalist discourse: the state of emergency, the EU constitutionalism, and global constitutionalism.