Why Rawls is Wrong about Constitutional Amendment

in Jaclyn Neo & Yaniv Roznai (eds.), Edward Elgar Research Handbook on Constitutionalism and Legal Theory (forthcoming 2025)

The University of Texas at Austin, Legal Studies Research Paper

24 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2024

See all articles by Richard Albert

Richard Albert

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law; University of Texas at Austin - Department of Government; Université Paris II - Panthéon-Assas; Universidad de Especialidades Espíritu Santo; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; São Paulo Law School of Fundação Getulio Vargas FGV DIREITO SP; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law; Reichman University - Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Harry Radziner School of Law; Airlangga University; Yale University; Maharashtra National Law University Mumbai

Date Written: June 10, 2024

Abstract

In his celebrated book Political Liberalism, John Rawls invites us to imagine a hypothetical Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution that would "repeal the First Amendment" and establish a "state religion." Would it be a lawful amendment, he asks? For Rawls, the answer is no: the amendment would be "invalid." But is Rawls right? In this chapter prepared for the Edward Elgar Research Handbook on Constitutionalism and Legal Theory, I explain why Rawls is wrong that the U.S. Constitution sets substantive restrictions on constitutional reform. I then map the landscape of constitutional change around the world, using Rawls' hypothetical Twenty-Eighth Amendment as my point of departure. Along the way, I illuminate the various methods and means of constitutional change, the precise terms we should use when referring to each, and the stakes involved in distinguishing formal from informal constitutional change. My objectives are to correct Rawls' misunderstanding of constitutional amendment and to canvass the legal, political, and theoretical terrain of how constitutions change, and how they do not.

Keywords: Constitutional Amendment, Formal Amendment, Informal Amendment, John Rawls, Constitutional Replacement, Constitutional Dismemberment, U.S. Constitution, First Amendment, Comparative Constitutional Law, Constitutional Change

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, Why Rawls is Wrong about Constitutional Amendment (June 10, 2024). in Jaclyn Neo & Yaniv Roznai (eds.), Edward Elgar Research Handbook on Constitutionalism and Legal Theory (forthcoming 2025), The University of Texas at Austin, Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4859375 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4859375

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://law.utexas.edu/faculty/richard-albert

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