Modern Constitutions

Modern Constitutions

by Rogers M. Smith, Richard R. Beeman

8 illus.

  • Hardcover
  • 9780812252347
  • Published: August 2020



More than two millennia ago, Aristotle is said to have compiled a collection of ancient constitutions that informed his studies of politics. For Aristotle, constitutions largely distilled and described the varied and distinctive patterns of political life established over time. What constitutionalism has come to mean in the modern era, on the other hand, originates chiefly in the late eighteenth century and primarily with the U.S. Constitution—written in 1787 and made effective in 1789—and the various French constitutions that first appeared in 1791.

In the last half century, more than 130 nations have adopted new constitutions, half of those within the last twenty years. These new constitutions are devoted to many of the same goals found in the U.S. Constitution: the rule of law, representative self-government, and protection of rights. But by canvassing constitutional developments at the national and state level in the United States alongside modern constitutions in Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, and Asia, the contributors to Modern Constitutions—all leading scholars of constitutionalism—show that modern constitutions often seek to protect social rights and to establish representative institutions, forms of federalism, and courts charged with constitutional review that depart from or go far beyond the seminal U.S. example. Partly because of their innovations, however, many modern constitutional systems now confront mounting authoritarian pressures that put fundamental commitments to the rule of law in jeopardy.

The contributions in this volume collectively provide a measure of guidance for the challenges and prospects of modern constitutions in the rapidly changing political world of the twenty-first century.

Contributors: Richard R. Beeman, Valerie Bunce, Tom Ginsburg, Heinz Klug, David S. Law, Sanford Levinson, Jaime Lluch, Christopher McCrudden, Kim Lane Scheppele, Rogers M. Smith, Mila Versteeg, Emily Zackin.