Joint Sessions 2008

ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, Rennes (France), April 11-16, 2008

Workshop No. 20 “The Politics of Constitutional Change”

Workshop Directors: Arthur Benz (Hagen), César Colino (Madrid)


During the last decade, attempts at constitutional change have increasingly appeared on the political agenda in many democratic states, producing quite different results as regards scope and content of the changes. Still, we have little evidence about the reasons why constitutions become a matter of politics and about the conditions for success or failure of constitutional change. There is ample research on the design and making of constitutions, but these insights cannot be applied directly to patterns of constitutional change. Processes of change in established democratic states imply conflicts and procedures quite different from processes of constitution-making. While in the latter case, the unanimity necessary to create a constitution is not too unlikely in the face of a very unpleasant status quo (e.g. unconstitutional state or a dictatorship), in the former, the qualified majorities most often necessary for constitutional change have to be brokered among powerful interests anxious at preserving their privileges. Much of current theorising based on rational actor or institutionalist approaches leads us to predict that changing constitutional rules is highly unlikely. In reality, however, many such reforms have been successful and have produced substantial results.

In the workshop we aim at a more appropriate analysis of the complex mechanisms of constitutional politics. Theoretical papers on constitutional change in general and on explanations for the success or failure of constitutional change in particular are welcome as well as empirical case studies or comparative studies contributing to theory building.

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