Edited by David Landau and Hanna Lerner
Chapter 2: Revolutions and constitution making
The chapter considers the strong yet problematic relationship of revolution and constitution in the modern world. Relying on Hannah Arendt, it affirms both a historical relationship as well as a logical “elective affinity” between revolution and constitution. Nevertheless, I argue that if interpret constitution in the normative sense, i.e. as some version of constitutionalism, then revolutions more often than not culminate in the contrary: in forms of institutionalized (rather than just temporary) dictatorships. According to the argument, this too is a logical and not merely a historical relationship, although not absolutely necessary or unavoidable. Using the lessons of post-revolutionary democratic transitions in South Africa and Central Europe, and considering contemporary examples such as Colombia and Tunisia, I argue that it depends on the form of constitution making whether or not the dictatorial logic and outcome can be avoided in revolutions or quasi-revolutions. In particular, the replacement of a single stage model relying on a sovereign constituent assembly, should be replaced to whatever extent possible by multi stage approaches in which no agent can be considered sovereign.
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