Uncharismatic Revolutionary Constitutionalism
in Revolutionary Constitutionalism: Law, Legitimacy, Power (Richard Albert ed., Hart Publishing, 2020)
31 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2019 Last revised: 23 Feb 2020
Date Written: 2020
A reasonably familiar type of constitutionalist revolution is the one engineered and led by a charismatic hero and movement-party whose political legitimacy has been earned through long years of struggle and sacrifice on behalf of the people against the old regime. Think Gandhi, Nehru and the Indian National Congress; Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress; Lech Walesa and Solidarity. This type is brilliantly analyzed and its developmental stages identified through a series of in-depth case studies in Bruce Ackerman's recent book, Revolutionary Constitutions: Charismatic Leaders and the Rule of Law.
This chapter considers a second, less heralded but no less common, type of revolutionary constitutionalism: the spontaneous, leaderless or movement-less one. Prominent examples of such successful "uncharismatic" revolutions over the past century include the Mexican (1910-1920), the Philippine (1986), the Romanian (1989), and the Tunisian (2011). It agues that this second type of revolutionary constitutionalism typically faces a quite different legitimacy crisis than the first, and at a much earlier time: during the revolutionary turmoil rather than via a succession crisis a generation later. It also suggests the potential alternative sources of such necessary legitimacy. Finally, it compares the role of the judiciary in charismatic and non-charismatic regimes. By adding an additional layer to the topic of revolutionary constitutionalism, the chapter seeks to further our understanding of the revolutionary mode as a whole and its interconnections with the other pathways to constitutionalism.
Keywords: revolutionary constitutionalism, revolution, charisma, legitimacy crisis, Mexican Revolution, judicial supremacy
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