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    Constituents Before Assembly
    • Online ISBN: 9781316717080
    • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316717080
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Book description

Under what circumstances do new constitutions improve a nation's level of democracy? Between 1974 and 2014, democracy increased in 77 countries following the adoption of a new constitution, but it decreased or stayed the same in 47 others. This book demonstrates that increased participation in the forming of constitutions positively impacts levels of democracy. It is discovered that the degree of citizen participation at the 'convening stage' of constitution-making has a strong effect on levels of democracy. This finding defies the common theory that levels of democracy result from the content of constitutions, and instead lends support to 'deliberative' theories of democracy. Patterns of constitutions are then compared, differentiating imposed and popular constitution-making processes, using case studies from Chile, Nigeria, Gambia, and Venezuela to illustrate the dynamics specific to imposed constitution-making, and case studies from Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, and Tunisia to illustrate the specific dynamics of popular constitution-making.

Reviews

'Normative theories of constitution making have traditionally proposed that only constitutions adopted with a high degree of citizen involvement can work as the foundational moment of a vigorous democracy. Although this claim seems intuitively plausible, the link between participatory constitution making and democratization has never been systematically tested. This book is the first to provide empirical support to the democratizing effect of citizen involvement in constitutional moments, yet showing that participation at the early deliberative stage of constitution making is what matters for the inauguration of a true liberal democracy. Constituents Before Assembly is a major contribution to the field of constitutional politics and will be indispensable reading not only for scholars interested in comparative constitutionalism but also for international agencies and reformers engaged in actual processes of constitution building.'

Gabriel L. Negretto, - Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, Mexico (CIDE)

'Participatory constitution making is emerging as a new international norm. This ambitious book represents the first systematic attempt to study the impact of this new mode of crafting constitutions, which consists in seeking popular input at various stages of the process. Using advanced statistical techniques the authors show, among other things, that popular participation upstream of the process matters much more than downstream referenda. This book should prove invaluable to constitution designers around the world, as well as democratic theory scholars and anyone interested in ways of perfecting our democracies.'

Hélène Landemore - Yale University, Connecticut

'Comparative constitutional analysis is quite literally as old as Aristotle, as scholars have sought to find the wisest design for political institutions. But recently specialists have realized that politics as much as wisdom is at issue and they have turned their attention to the process by which constitutions are written. The authors of this empirically careful and conceptually sophisticated inquiry walk us through the political implications of who gets a voice, when, and how during a country's constitution drafting process.'

Nathan J. Brown - George Washington University, Washington, DC and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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