Journal Article

Comparing constitutions: Ideas, ideals, and ideology—toward a layered narrative

Günter Frankenberg

in International Journal of Constitutional Law

Published on behalf of The New York University School of Law

Volume 4, issue 3, pages 439-459
Published in print July 2006 | ISSN: 1474-2640
Published online July 2006 | e-ISSN: 1474-2659 | DOI:
Comparing constitutions: Ideas, ideals, and ideology—toward a layered narrative

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  • Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • UK Politics


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Comparing constitutions means having to cope with problems of understanding that which is unfamiliar and constructing a variety of texts. A layered narrative is a way to address these methodological and theoretical challenges. It starts from the assumption that the comparatist, while never able to see the whole picture, must nonetheless focus on seemingly marginal details. To capture the interaction between constitutions and cultures, the narrative has at its base a broad conceptual grid. The next layer is informed by four constitutional archetypes—the constitution as contract, manifesto, program, and law. In a more structuralist vein, the narrative analyzes the constitutional architecture dominated by a master plan whose elements are rights and principles, values and duties, organizational provisions, and rules for constitutional amendment and interpretation. While the elements of the master plan correspond to a global repertoire, their specific composition and distinctive details reflect the local knowledge that is crucial to the revitalization of comparative constitutional law.

Journal Article.  9115 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law ; UK Politics

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