Comparative Constitutional Theory
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Comparative Constitutional Theory

Edited by Gary Jacobsohn and Miguel Schor

The need for innovative thinking about alternative constitutional experiences is evident, and readers of Comparative Constitutional Theory will find in its pages a compendium of original, theory-driven essays. The authors use a variety of theoretical perspectives to explore the diversity of global constitutional experience in a post-1989 world prominently marked by momentous transitions from authoritarianism to democracy, by multiple constitutional revolutions and devolutions, by the increased penetration of international law into national jurisdictions, and by the enhancement of supra-national institutions of governance.
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Chapter 3: Federalism and constitutional theory

Stephen Tierney


Abstract: This chapter approaches federalism from an overtly theoretical perspective, seeking to explore the nature of federalism as an idea rather than as a particular institutional model. It argues that federalism is essentially a constitutional idea, and therefore must be addressed through the specific disciplinary prism of constitutional theory. Existing federal theory has tended to be bound up with, and informed by, the surrounding ideological environment within which it has been shaped, in particular liberal democracy. A key contention of the chapter is that the concept of federalism as a constitutional idea requires to be retrieved from the thick normative baggage with which it has been burdened. It is also argued that the federal idea is one that has itself mutated through the evolution of federal practice over time and from place to place. The task of extricating the constitutional idea of federalism is one which must ground itself not only in theories of constitutional government but in the comparative study of the lived reality of that constitutional idea from time to time and from place to place.

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