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In Defence of Constitutionalism: Democracy, Power and the Nation State

Tzanakopoulou, M; (2016) In Defence of Constitutionalism: Democracy, Power and the Nation State. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Constitutionalism is a theory of liberal democracy based in law which restricts state power and establishes the rule of law. But seen more broadly constitutionalism underpins the field of social conflict, understood abstractly as the often unexpressed tension produced out of power asymmetries. It accommodates conflict in an effort to preserve the established state apparatus. While constitutionalism pacifies social conflict, it can also provide the spark igniting the legitimate expression of such conflict. Social struggles often unfold in the name of the constitution and are legitimately backed by it even when their demands directly challenge the established liberal legal and political paradigm. Seen in this light, constitutionalism is a democratic project carrying with it the potential for emancipation of vulnerable and oppressed parts of society through agonistic citizenship and politics of contestation. Drawing on this understanding it is appropriate to examine where social conflict is located and where citizenship, understood as collective political disagreement, is viable. Based on the theory of ‘global governance’ which recognises that power and authority are diffused globally, a line of constitutional argument holds that the constitutional project should exceed state boundaries. By contrast, this thesis insists that constitutionalism should remain focused on the nation state understood as the principal locus of social conflict. The nation state framework supports the political and ideological conditions needed for the (re-)production of the fundamental asymmetry dividing societies into opposing forces: the capitalist mode of production. Therefore the nation state is also the site where collective struggle against power asymmetries is most needed. The qualities and characteristics of the nation state are not replicable at global level. They could potentially apply at European level. However, the Union blocks collective political disagreement while it promotes a logic which hinders the development of democratic practices of dissensus and therefore of constitutionalism.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: In Defence of Constitutionalism: Democracy, Power and the Nation State
Event: UCL
Language: English
Keywords: constitutionalism, social conflict, social consensus, citizenship, European constitutionalism, global constitutionalism, nation state, power, democracy
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1476846
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