Constitutional Politics in France and Germany

Alec Stone Sweet

in On Law, Politics, and Judicialization

Published in print August 2002 | ISBN: 9780199256488
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600234 | DOI:
Constitutional Politics in France and Germany

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This is the second of two papers that explore the politics of constitutional review – the power of a court or other organ of government to review the constitutionality of public acts, including legislation, and to void those acts as unlawful when they are found to be in conflict with the constitutional law. It was originally published in 1994 as ‘Judging Socialist Reform: The Politics of Coordinate Construction in France and Germany’ in the journal Comparative Political Studies, and begins with a general discussion of the role and impact of the French and German constitutional courts within policy-making processes. Case studies drawn from the legislative programmes of the first two Social–Liberal coalitions in Germany (1969–76) and the first Socialist government in France (1981–85) are then employed to ground a discussion of the coordinate construction of legislation and of constitutional law. These two periods have attracted the special attention of students of policy-making as singular experiences of governments of the left pledged to non-incremental reform agenda; both governments promised democratization, redistribution schemes, and alteration of the balance of power between labour and capital in favour of the former. These programmes not only polarized opposition but also strained the confines of existing legal regimes, administration, and jurisprudence; in consequence, constitutional courts, which remained dominated by appointments of the former majority, were enabled or required to develop previously unexplored areas of law.

Keywords: balance of power between labour and capital; constitutional courts; constitutional judicial review; constitutional law; constitutional politics; Coordinate Construction; democratization; France; Germany; judicial review; legislation; opposition; policy-making; redistribution

Chapter.  9486 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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