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On the limits of constitutional liberalism: in search of a constitutional reflexivity

Dowdle, Michael W. and Wilkinson, Michael (2015) On the limits of constitutional liberalism: in search of a constitutional reflexivity. Working paper series (2015/009). National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law, Singapore.

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Analyses of comparative constitutional law are frequently framed by a particular vision of constitutionalism that we call the 'structural-liberal' vision. This vision sees the purpose of constitutional as being one of limiting state power - its ‘liberal’ component - which is done through the construction of a particular set of institutional architectures - such as judicial constitutional review, judicial protection and enforcement of fundamental rights, separation of powers, rule of law, etc. - its 'structural component.' In this paper, we argue that such analyses are incomplete. The structural-liberal vision is but one of a number of ways of conceptualizing constitutionalism. It is the product of a particular time and place, and reflects the particular concerns and experiences of that time and place. Conversely, there are other kinds of important constitutional concerns and experiences that the structural liberal-vision renders invisible. These include processes of constitutional emergence and evolution, and symbiotic relationships between constitutionalism and other aspects of the regulatory environment (such as the economic structure of the state). In order to be complete, analyses of comparative constitutional law need to be more attentive to the distinctive concerns and experiences of the subjects of their attention. This involves allowing the subject system to speak for itself within the context of the larger, human discussion of constitutionalism - an analytic methodology that we call constitutional reflexivity.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 The Authors
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2015 11:56
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2021 00:24

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