ERC CZ Research Grant

Identity Constitutionalism: The Community-building Capacity of Constitutions in the EU-MENAP Region

Principal Investigator: Dr. Tomas Dumbrovsky, Ph.D. LL.M. J.S.D. (Yale)

Project summary
This comparative and interdisciplinary project investigates the role of constitutions and constitutionalism in the formation of collective political identity across eight countries in Europe and Middle East and North Africa.
Constitutionalism can stimulate centripetal forces within society that can be directed towards making the constitution the primary source of a political community’s identity (a community-building function). In this respect, constitutionalism can replace other concepts that have been employed to this end, such as nationalism, religion, and sovereignty, while eliminating the excessive side effects which the application of these alternative concepts has historically produced. The failure of the Arab Spring revolutions to constitutionalize freedom in the Arab world and the rise of national populism in Euro-Atlantic world strongly suggest that the potential of postwar rights-based constitutionalism has been exhausted. We propose a radically new approach to constitutionalism, which focuses on discursive relationship between society and constitution.

We argue that a constitution’s community-building capacity depends on it becoming pivotal in peoples’ judgments about the legitimate use of power, which requires it to achieve centrality in political discourse. Such centrality depends on three conditions. First, citizens must consider the constitution to be an authentic expression of their will. Second, the constitution must ensure compatibility between co-existing normative systems (the domestic legal order, morality, and international law). This compatibility condition ensures an openness of the political community to international and regional cooperation. Third, the constitution must create an adversarial institutional setting which stimulates officials to prefer constitutional arguments over other types of communication in public discourse. Each of the three conditions (constitutional authenticity, normative compatibility, and institutional adversariality) is measured using a set of variables for selection of states in the European Union and the Middle East and North Africa. These include stable liberal democracies, stable non-liberal/non-democratic states, and fragile states.

The first, two-year phase of the project, starting in November 2021, focuses on eight states (Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, Qatar, Egypt, Pakistan, and Sudan) and includes a large-scale social survey in the Czech Republic and Germany.