Democratic Legitimacy and the Question of Constituent Power
Routledge – 2012 – 214 pages
It has been frequently argued that democracy is protected and realized under constitutions that protect certain rights and establish the conditions for a functioning representative democracy. However, some democrats still find something profoundly unsettling about contemporary constitutional regimes. The participation of ordinary citizens in constitutional change in the world's most "advanced" democracies (such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom) is weak at best: the power of constitutional reform usually lies in the exclusive hands of legislatures. How can constitutions that can only be altered by those occupying positions of power be considered democratically legitimate?
This book argues that only a regime that provides an outlet for constituent power to manifest from time to time can ever come to enjoy democratic legitimacy. In so doing, it advances a democratic constitutional theory, one that combines a strong or participatory conception of democracy with a weak form of constitutionalism. The author engages with Anglo-American constitutional theory as well as examining the theory and practise of constituent power in different constitutional regimes (including Latin American countries) where constituent power has become an important part of the left’s legal and political discourse. Weak Constitutionalism: Democratic Legitimacy and the Question of Constituent Power will be of particular interest to legal/political theorists and comparative constitutional lawyers. It also provides an introduction to the theory of constituent power and its relationship to constitutionalism and democracy.
'Cólon-Ríos should be complimented for his thoughtful, structured organisation of the subject; he treads the fine line between reader friendliness and scholarly comprehensiveness.' - Azin Tadjdini, University of Oslo, Norway for Nordic Journal of International Law (2013)
1. Introduction: Toward a Weak Constitutionalism 2. Constitutionalism's Ends 3. The Second Dimension of Democracy 4. Democracy's Principles 5. The Theory (and Practise) of Constituent Power 6. The Idea of Democratic Legitimacy 7. The Transformation of the Juridical 8. The Beginnings of Weak Constitutionalism 9. Activating Constituent Power 10. Conclusion
Dr. Joel I. Colón-Ríos is a Lecturer in Law at Victoria University of Wellington. He is the author of Carl Schmitt and Constituent Power in Latin American Courts (Constellations) and The Counter Majoritarian Difficulty and the Road Not Taken: Democratizing Amendment Rules (Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence).