In Search of the Constitution
22 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 9, 2019
As the constitutionalisation of political life has been sweeping across the world, British legal scholars have felt emboldened to reconstruct the British constitution in the image of a modern constitutional framework of hierarchically-ordered fundamental law. This has resulted in a great deal of imaginative re-interpretation in which fluid practices have been invested with implausible normative authority, with the author’s political beliefs only just lurking below the surface. I try to avoid some of the major pitfalls of this approach by examining not the ‘thing in itself’ but its various meanings. I therefore present a simplified historical sketch of modern constitutional development in order to show how at distinct periods the meaning of the word ‘constitution’ has been shaped by the political forces of the time. I conclude that none of the conceptions that were dominant in the various phases of modern development is now able to command authority and this helps to explain why what counts as ‘constitutional’ is an intensely contested matter.
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