Global Constitutionalism

Antje Wiener

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:
Global Constitutionalism

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There are two c’s in “global constitutionalism”: constitutionalization and constitutionalism. A third c, constitution, comes to mind; however, it is traditionally established to keep the politics of governments in check. The constitutional norms, principles, and procedures provide a reference frame that operates as a third angle to two conflicting parties. Typically, the notion of global constitutionalism or its precursors emerges in the environment of international organizations and reflects the need to qualify regulatory practices or to put constitutional principles in place. The European Union (EU), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the United Nations (UN) have been among the first organizational contexts in which constitutionalization has become a common feature, with the intention of qualifying world trade, environmental, human rights, and postconflict policies based on constitutional principles. These changes reflect a shift from globalized toward constitutionalized international relations. Politically, this development indicates potential conflict following contested constitutional norms, principles, and procedures. This situation raises the question of whether and to what extent the familiar (modern) constitutional reference frame is suitable for assessing and understanding constitutionalism beyond the state. In the absence of government in the global realm, reference to any of the three c’s in international relations (IR) theory and international law discourse, respectively, presents both a puzzle and a trigger for the emerging debate about global constitutionalism. For the developing interdisciplinary research program on global constitutionalism, it is most important to distinguish between the central concepts of constitutionalism and constitutionalization. “Constitutionalization” is defined as a process by which institutional arrangements in the nonconstitutional global realm have taken on a constitutional quality. This process frequently occurs in a relatively spontaneous, little coordinated, and even elusive manner. Therefore the emergence and the very constitutional quality of this process remain to be established by further empirical research. In contrast, “constitutionalism” is a theoretical approach; it is a framework rather than a phenomenon. As a framework, it allows for studying and understanding the phenomenon being observed—the shift from globalized toward constitutionalized international relations. However, it is important to keep in mind that because theories, such as constitutionalism, always reflect their context of emergence (time, place, agency), it is possible—and important—to distinguish between different types of constitutionalism, for example, ancient, modern, European, Confucian, late modern.

Article.  6677 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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