The Antinomies of Constitutional Authority

Research output: Working paper


The paper revisits the question of the nature and viability of a post-state or cosmopolitan constitutionalism, and of its merits in comparison to state-centred constitutionalism, by reference to a number of deep-rooted antinomies within constitutional thought and practice. The first concerns the structural dimension of constitutionalism, in particular the tension between constitutionalism as an integrated achievement, its features embedded in the specific polity so as to form an indivisible whole, and constitutionalism as a disaggregable achievement, capable of abstraction from the particular polity and, in its abstract form, separable into various generic attributes. The second concerns the ethical dimension of constitutionalism; more specifically the tension between a particular and polity-centred and a universal and polity-transcending understanding of what lends meaning and value to constitutional arrangements, principles and doctrines. The third concerns the functional dimension of constitutionalism, and in particular the tension between gubernaculum and jurisidictio – between a conception of constitutional value that accords priority to governing capacity and one that stresses the importance of constraints upon public power. The fourth and last antinomy concerns the socio-cultural dimension of constitutionalism, and in particular the tension between constitutionalism as the expression of and investment in an already established political way of being, and constitutionalism as a blueprint for progress – a future-oriented project of political community. The paper shows how state constitutionalism has sought, with greater or less success, to find a balance between the contending forces within these four dimensions. Post-national constitutionalism, in contrast, tends to gloss over the antinomic structure of constitutionalism and to take a one-sided approach within each dimension, emphasising abstraction and disaggregation, universalism, jurisdiction and projection against their more culturally grounded alternatives. How prevalent and unavoidable is this tendency, and with what consequences for the legitimacy of transnational constitutional claims?
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Edinburgh, School of Law, Working Papers
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2015

Publication series

NameEdinburgh Law School Working Papers


  • Cosmopolitan
  • state
  • constitution
  • democracy
  • global
  • authority


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