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The ideologies of global constitutionalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 March 2019

Harry Radzyner Law School, The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel


This introduction sets the stage for the special issue on the ‘ideologies of global constitutionalism’. It describes the competing approaches for conceptualising and analysing global constitutionalism. It then turns to highlight the overlooked ideologies underlying global constitutionalism through a thematic exposition of the articles in the special issue. In particular, the introduction questions the conventional link between global constitutionalism and neo-liberalism, explores a materialist analysis of global constitutionalism, analyses the validity of the liberal global constitutionalist paradigm for non-liberal regimes, and discusses the potential for the abuse of that liberal paradigm through the migration of constitutional doctrine.

Special Issue: The Ideologies of Global Constitutionalism
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019 

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1 See, e.g., Lang, AF and Wiener, A (eds), Handbook on Global Constitutionalism (Edward Elgar Press, Cheltenham, 2017).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

2 See, e.g., Peters, A, ‘The Merits of Global Constitutionalism’ (2009) 16(2) Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3 See, e.g., Young, E, ‘The Trouble with Global Constitutionalism’ (2003) 38(3) Texas Journal of International Law 527.Google Scholar

4 Ibid.

5 See, e.g., Cohen-Eliya, M and Porat, I, Proportionality and Constitutional Culture (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2013).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6 For some of these directions, see Schwöbel, CE, ‘Situating the Debate on Global Constitutionalism’ (2010) 8(3) International Journal of Constitutional Law 611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar On the mapping/shaping distinction, see Peters (n 2) 397.

7 Indeed, constitutions are often viewed as good, per se, promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. See Bell, C, ‘Introduction: Bargaining on Constitution – Political Settlements and Constitutional State-Building’ (2017) 6(1) Global Constitutionalism 13, 18.Google Scholar See also the work of the Venice Commission, proceeding on this assumption.

8 Of course, the possibility of non-democratic forms of constitutionalism is not disputed, nor is the endurance of power politics both within and beyond the state. See Kumm, M et al., ‘How Large is the World of Global Constitutionalism’ (2014) 3(1) Global Constitutionalism 1, 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

9 Tully, J et al., ‘Introducing Global Integral Constitutionalism’ (2016) 5(1) Global Constitutionalism 1, 2 (original emphasis).Google Scholar

10 Ibid.

11 Fierke, KM, ‘Introduction: Independence, Global Entanglement and the Co-Production of Sovereignty’ (2017) 6(2) Global Constitutionalism 167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

12 Brown, GW, ‘The Constitutionalization of What?’ (2012) 1(2) Global Constitutionalism 201;CrossRefGoogle Scholar Koskenniemi, M, ‘Constitutionalism as Mindset: Reflections on Kantian Themes about International Law and Globalization’ (2006) 8(1) Theoretical Inquiries in Law 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13 Peters (n 2) 397. For an explication of the global constitution see Peters, A, ‘Global Constitutionalism Revisited’ (2005) 11 International Legal Theory 39Google Scholar describing the move in international law and relations from cooperation to constitutionalisation. This is, in Peters’ words, a reconstructive academic artifact, reconstructing portions of international law as international constitutional law. This is due to a hollowing out of national constitutions, as certain tasks are increasingly performed outside the state. Moving from domestic law to ‘governance’ thus generates a demand for constitutionalisation. Consequently, constitutional reconstruction seeks to legitimise global governance by contributing to a universally acceptable transnational network of legal orders.

14 Law, DS and Versteeg, M, ‘The Evolution and Ideology of Global Constitutionalism’ (2011) 99(5) California Law Review 1163.Google Scholar Convergence in the sense that constitutions can be grouped into two clusters (libertarian or statist). Within each cluster there is convergence, and the divergence occurs between these ideological clusters.

15 Choudhry, S (ed), The Migration of Constitutional Ideas (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

16 Bell (n 7) 32.

17 To be sure, other classifications exist in the literature, with some affinity to those offered above. For Brown, The Constitutionalization of What? (n 12), constitutionalisation can mean 1) the formal and legal processes involved in constituting (codifying) a legal order, either through a hierarchical structure or a network of interconnected legal regimes. This is where rights and duties and adjudicative mechanism are established 2) making an entity subject to a constitutional order 3) informal and extra-legal processes of norm solidification and normative convergence. The editors of Global Constitutionalism identify three schools of thought: Normative (geared toward moral and political ideals), Functionalist (studying the processes of constitutionalisation as revealed through negotiations and bargaining of international organizations, a taxonomic rather than normative approach), and Pluralist (those who focus on constitutionalisation beyond the state and view it with equal importance). Wiener, A et al., ‘Global Constitutionalism: Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law’ (2012) 1(1) Global Constitutionalism 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

18 This perceived tension is not shared by all. Martin Loughlin maintains that global constitutionalism is an oxymoron, since state and sovereignty are expressions of unity and closure. Being sovereign means being a source of the law. The fallacy, he argues, is that constitutional pluralists replace the state with the constitution. See Loughlin, constitutional pluralism an oxymoron. Loughlin, M, ‘Global Pluralism: An Oxymoron?’ (2014) 3(1) Global Constitutionalism 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

19 Young (n 3).

20 Although Law and Versteeg (n 14) demonstrate the domestic constitutional text is no longer primarily a statement of national identity, be it for reasons of conformity, learning, competition, or network effects.

21 Kjaer, PF, Constitutionalism in the Global Realm: A Sociological Approach (Routledge, Oxford, 2014).Google Scholar For a deeply statist account linking constitutionalism with sovereignty see Loughlin (n 18).

22 Zumbansen, P, ‘Comparative, Global and Transnational Constitutionalism: The Emergence of a Transnational Legal-Pluralist Order’ (2012) 1(1) Global Constitutionalism 16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

23 Eriksen, EO, ‘The Question of Deliberative Supranationalism in the EU’ (1999) ARENA Working Papers 99/4 <>..>Google Scholar Anne Peters argues that global governance and globalisation generate deconstitutionalisation on the domestic level, so global constitutionalism compensates for this loss – see Peters (n 2) 404–5.

24 Sadurski, W, ‘Supranational Public Reason: On Legitimacy of Supranational Norm-Producing Authorities’ (2015) 4(3) Global Constitutionalism 396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

25 Brown (n 12) 204.

26 Cf. Fierke (n 11) 176.

27 Wiener et al. (n 17).

28 Koskenniemi (n 12).

29 Kumm, M et al. ‘‘‘The End of ‘the West’’ and the Future of Global Constitutionalism’ (2017) 6(1) Global Constitutionalism 1;CrossRefGoogle Scholar Rosenfeld, M ‘Is Global Constitutionalism Meaningful or Desirable?’ (2014) 25(1) European Journal of International Law 177.Google Scholar

30 Harlow, C, ‘Global Administrative Law: The Quest for Principles and Values’ (2006) 17(1) European Journal of International Law 187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

31 Law and Versteeg (n 14).

32 Brown (n 12) 213, 219 (discussing though not endorsing this claim).

33 Bell (n 7) 14.

34 For the idea of abusive constitutionalism, see Landau, D, ‘Abusive Constitutionalism’ (2013) 47(1) University of California Davis Law Review 189.Google Scholar

35 The absolutist position is premised on the distinction between state and government, which Goldoni addresses.

36 See, e.g., Ginsburg, T and Simpser, A, Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2014);Google Scholar Brown, NJ, Constitutions in a Nonconstitutional World: Arab Basic Laws and the Prospects for Accountable Government (SUNY Press, Albany, NY 2002);Google Scholar Breslin, B, From Words to Worlds: Exploring Constitutional Functionality (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 2009).Google Scholar

37 Brown (n 36).

38 Cf. Roznai, Y, ‘Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments – The Migration and Success of a Constitutional Idea’ (2013) 61(3) American Journal of Comparative Law 657.Google Scholar

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