Comparing Constitutions: Ideas, Ideals, and Ideology-Toward a Layered Narrative

Posted: 29 Feb 2008

Date Written: July 2006


Comparing constitutions means having to cope with problems of understanding that which is unfamiliar and constructing a variety of texts. A layered narrative is a way to address these methodological and theoretical challenges. It starts from the assumption that the comparatist, while never able to see the whole picture, must nonetheless focus on seemingly marginal details. To capture the interaction between constitutions and cultures, the narrative has at its base a broad conceptual grid. The next layer is informed by four constitutional archetypes-the constitution as contract, manifesto, program, and law. In a more structuralist vein, the narrative analyzes the constitutional architecture dominated by a master plan whose elements are rights and principles, values and duties, organizational provisions, and rules for constitutional amendment and interpretation. While the elements of the master plan correspond to a global repertoire, their specific composition and distinctive details reflect the local knowledge that is crucial to the revitalization of comparative constitutional law.

Suggested Citation

Frankenberg, Günter, Comparing Constitutions: Ideas, Ideals, and Ideology-Toward a Layered Narrative (July 2006). International Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 4, Issue 3, pp. 439-459, 2006. Available at SSRN: or

Günter Frankenberg (Contact Author)

Goethe University Frankfurt ( email )

Grüneburgplatz 1
Frankfurt am Main, 60323
069-79822991 (Phone)
069-79822722 (Fax)

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