Whose Political Constitution? Citizens and Referendums

12 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2013

See all articles by Stephen Tierney

Stephen Tierney

University of Edinburgh - School of Law

Date Written: March 12, 2013


One notable feature about the debate between ‘liberal’ and ‘political’ constitutionalism has been its elite focus. The courts and the legislature are discussed in efforts to determine the appropriate role of each in processes of constitution-framing and changing. But this task is often set up implicitly as a zero-sum game. Although it might be claimed that citizens are tangentially relevant to this power struggle, a detailed account of whether citizens should, and how they might, play a direct role in constitutional authorship is seldom if ever placed on the table. This paper considers the elite orientation of this debate questioning whether this is in normative terms acceptable, and in empirical terms credible, particularly as we consider how, over the past three decades, the referendum has emerged as an important vehicle for constitutional change in so many states.

Keywords: law, constitutional law, constitutional theory, direct democracy, referendums, constitutionalism, political constitutionalism, republicanism, civic republicanism

Suggested Citation

Tierney, Stephen, Whose Political Constitution? Citizens and Referendums (March 12, 2013). Edinburgh School of Law Research Paper No. 2013/08, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2232437

Stephen Tierney (Contact Author)

University of Edinburgh - School of Law ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
United Kingdom

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