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Introduction: Populist constitutionalism: Varieties, complexities, and contradictions

  • Paul Blokker, Bojan Bugaric and Gábor Halmai

Abstract

The intense engagement of populists with constitutionalism—a phenomenon originally related to experiences in Latin America—is increasingly evident in some of the new European Union member states. But the populist phenomenon is clearly not confined to more recently established democracies. Populist constitutionalism stands for a number of distinctive tendencies in constitutional politics and practices which frequently are in tension with—and may even threaten—fundamental values, human rights, representative democracy, and the rule of law. The relation between populism and constitutionalism is, however, not necessarily one of anti-thesis, but rather manifests itself in distinctive ways, depending on specific contexts and variations. In this special issue, we argue that populist constitutionalism is best analyzed in a comparative, and historically and contextually attuned manner. The special issue wants to contribute to understandings of populist constitutionalism, which are both theoretically more robust and able to comparatively reflect on a diversity of “really existing” cases. The various contributions discuss central dimensions to the populist phenomenon. These pertain in particular to: (a) The varieties of populist engagement with constitutionalism; (b) a deeper understanding of the populist mindset; (c) the position-taking and reaction of constitutional scholars to populism; (d) the complex relation and overlap of populism with illiberalism and authoritarianism; and (e) the central nature of constituent power in populist projects.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Footnotes

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Paul Blokker is an Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Bologna and research associate, Charles University in Prague, Email: paulus.blokker@unibo.it. The author acknowledges funding for the research project Transnational populism and European democracy (TRAPpED) of the Czech Science Foundation (Grantová agentura České republiky) (Standard Project 18-25924S).

**

Bojan Bugaric is a Professor of Law, School of Law, University of Sheffield, Email: b.bugaric@sheffield.ac.uk.

***

Gábor Halmai is a Professor and Chair of Comparative Constitutional Law, European University Institute, Florence, Italy, Email: gabor.halmai@eui.eu.

Footnotes

References

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1 See, e.g., Carlos De la Torre, Populist Citizenship in the Bolivarian Revolutions, 1 Middle Atlantic Review of Latin American Studies 4–32 (2017).

2 Notably Hungary and Poland, but other members of the notorious Visegrád group equally manifest worrisome tendencies, as well as other countries in the region, such as Romania.

3 Christopher Thornhill, A Tale of Two Constitutions. Whose Legitimacy? Whose Crisis?, in Brexit. Sociological Responses (William Outhwaite ed., 2017).

4 Aziz Huq & Tom Ginsburg, How to Lose a Constitutional Democracy, 65 UCLA Law Review 78 (2018).

5 North-American constitutional scholarship is a distinctive, but important exception here. In the last 30 years, it has provided a rich body of literature on populist, or as some call it, popular constitutionalism. For an interesting overview of the US literature, analyzed through a European lens, see Lucia Corso, What Does Populism Have to Do with Constitutional Law? Discussing Populist Constitutionalism and its Assumptions, 3 Rivista di filosofia del diritto 443–470 (2014).

6 See for recent additions, see The Oxford handbook of populism (Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Paul A. Taggart, Paulina Ochoa Espejo, & Pierre Ostiguy eds., 2017), and Routledge Handbook of Global Populism (Carlos de la Torre ed., 2018).

7 Paul Blokker, Populist constitutionalism, in Routledge Handbook of Global Populism (Carlos de la Torre ed., 2018); Mark Tushnet, Comparing Right-Wing and Left-Wing Populism, in CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY IN CRISIS? (Mark A. Graber, Sanford Levinson, Mark Tushnet eds., 2018); Neil Walker, Populism and Constitutional Tension, 17 International Journal of Constitutional Law (forthcoming, 2019).

8 David Landau, Abusive constitutionalism, 47 UCDL Rev. 189 (2013).

9 See the contributions of Blokker, Bugaric, Halmai, and Tushnet, each in this issue.

10 As in the case of transnational populism, see Blokker.

11 See Scheppele, in this issue.

12 See Scheppele, Tushnet, Blokker, each in this issue.

13 See Bugaric, Fournier, Halmai, Scheppele, each in this issue.

14 See Blokker, Scholtes, each in this issue.

15 For instance, France, Turkey, and transnational populism.

* Paul Blokker is an Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Bologna and research associate, Charles University in Prague, Email: . The author acknowledges funding for the research project Transnational populism and European democracy (TRAPpED) of the Czech Science Foundation (Grantová agentura České republiky) (Standard Project 18-25924S).

** Bojan Bugaric is a Professor of Law, School of Law, University of Sheffield, Email: .

*** Gábor Halmai is a Professor and Chair of Comparative Constitutional Law, European University Institute, Florence, Italy, Email: .

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Introduction: Populist constitutionalism: Varieties, complexities, and contradictions

  • Paul Blokker, Bojan Bugaric and Gábor Halmai

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