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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: September 2012



In themselves, technical changes in the form of government do not make a nation vigorous or happy or valuable. They can only remove technical obstacles and thus are merely means for a given end. Perhaps it is regrettable that such bourgeois and prosaic matters, which we shall discuss here with deliberate self-limitation and exclusion of all of the great substantive cultural issues facing us, can be important at all. But that is the way things are.

– Max Weber, Parliament and Government in a Reconstructed Germany (1917; 1978)

It is not because we have made a certain law or because it has been willed by so many votes, that we submit to it; it is because it is a good one – that is, appropriate to the nature of the facts, because it is all it ought to be and because we have confidence in it. And this confidence depends equally on that inspired by the organs that have the task of preparing it. What matters, then, is the way in which the law is made, the competence of those whose function it is to make it and the nature of the particular agency that has to make this particular function work. Respect for the law depends on the quality of the legislators and the quality of the political system.

– Emile Durkheim, Professional Ethics and Civic Morals (1890; 1982)

One of the potentially most consequential institutions in any polity is the constitution.

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