Societal Constitutionalism (Theory of)

47 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2021 Last revised: 13 Apr 2021

See all articles by Angelo Golia

Angelo Golia

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law

Gunther Teubner

Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität

Date Written: March 14, 2021


The entry provides an outline and systematisation of societal constitutionalism (SC), one of the main frameworks emerged in contemporary legal theory to analyse constitutional phenomena. After a general introduction in section A, section B recalls SC’s theoretical background, namely the Economic Constitution (B.I), legal pluralism (B.II), systems theory (B.III), and the work of David Sciulli (B.IV). Section C explains SC’s analytical limb, which on the one hand de-constructs some tenets of state-centred constitutionalism (C.I); and on the other hand individuates the functions, arenas, processes, and structures of a constitutionalised system (C.II). Section D turns to SC’s normative limb, pointing to some legal policy proposals, aimed at the increase of social systems’ capacities of self-limitation (D.I); and at the development of a law of inter-systemic collisions (D.II). Section E concludes addressing some of the main competing approaches and criticisms, namely those coming from the proponents of state-centred constitutionalism (E.I); of international/global constitutionalism (E.II); and of contestatory/material constitutionalism (E.III).

Keywords: Legal theory, legal pluralism, sociological constitutionalism, global law, systems theory, democracy beyond the state

Suggested Citation

Golia, Angelo Jr and Teubner, Gunther, Societal Constitutionalism (Theory of) (March 14, 2021). Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & International Law (MPIL) Research Paper No. 2021-08, Available at SSRN: or

Angelo Jr Golia (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120

Gunther Teubner

Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität ( email )

Grüneburgplatz 1
Frankfurt am Main, D-60323
0049 69 71034781 (Phone)
0049 69 798-34405 (Fax)


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