The Constitutional Imagination

25 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2015

See all articles by Martin Loughlin

Martin Loughlin

London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: January 2015


The constitutional imagination refers to the way we have been able to conceive the relationship between thought, text and action in the constitution of modern political authority. The lecture seeks to demonstrate how modern constitutional texts come to be invested with a ‘world‐making’ capacity. The argument is advanced first by explaining how social contract thinkers have been able to set the parameters of the constitutional imagination (thought), then by showing that constitutions are agonistic documents and their interpretative method is determined by a dialectic of ideology and utopia (text), and finally by examining the degree to which constitutions have been able to colonise the political domain, thereby converting constitutional aspiration into political reality (action). It concludes by suggesting that although we seem to be entering a constitutional age, this is an ambiguous achievement and whether the power of the constitutional imagination can still be sustained remains an open question.

Suggested Citation

Loughlin, Martin, The Constitutional Imagination (January 2015). The Modern Law Review, Vol. 78, Issue 1, pp. 1-25, 2015, Available at SSRN: or

Martin Loughlin (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

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