Comparative Constitution Making
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Comparative Constitution Making

Edited by David Landau and Hanna Lerner

Recent years have witnessed an explosion of new research on constitution making. Comparative Constitution Making provides an up-to-date overview of this rapidly expanding field.
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Chapter 6: Amendment and revision in the unmaking of constitutions

Richard Albert


The distinction between amendment and revision is foundational to our present understanding of formal constitutional change. Scholars have suggested how to differentiate amendment from revision, constitutional designers have entrenched distinct procedures for each, and judges have applied both of these concepts to actual cases and controversies. Yet even at its best the distinction is unclear and it raises more questions than it offers answers. My purpose in this invited contribution to the Edward Elgar Handbook on Comparative Constitution Making is to clarify the distinction between amendment and revision from a perspective internal to the scholarship on constitutional change. I suggest with reference to jurisdictions as varied as Belize, Canada, the Czech Republic, India and the United States that an amendment should be understood as an effort to continue the constitution-making project that began at the founding moment, while a revision should be understood as an effort to unmake the constitution by introducing an extraordinary change that is inconsistent with the fundamental presuppositions of the constitution. I conclude by suggesting that our reinterpretation of the distinction between amendment and revision nonetheless remains susceptible to exploitation.

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