Complex Polities

Malcolm M. Feeley

in The Oxford Handbook of Legal Studies

Published in print June 2005 | ISBN: 9780199248179
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
Complex Polities


This article explores several of the more widely used constitutional devices used to structure political life in complex societies in ways that give voice to each distinct segment of society while at the same time fostering stable democratic government. Constitutional devices here are understood in a broad sense of the term, to include both formal provisions in constitutions and law, as well as established political ‘arrangements’ that are part of a ‘living constitution’. The emphasis, however, will be on planned structural devices — formal constitutional architecture — that have been consciously adopted with specific objectives in mind. These several devices are: consociational political arrangements; majoritarian democracy with limited government; federalism; devolution and decentralization; voting systems (e.g., single-member representative districts, proportional representation, preferential voting); and multiculturalism recognized in bills or charters of rights that extend rights to individuals or groups.

Keywords: constitutional devices; political life; complex societies; consociational political arrangements; majoritarian democracy; federalism; devolution; decentralization; voting systems; multiculturalism

Article.  9371 words. 

Subjects: Law ; Law and Politics

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