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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S013-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 14, 2024, from

Article Summary

Constitutionalism comprises a set of ideas, principles and rules, all of which deal with the question of how to develop a political system which excludes as far as possible the chance of arbitrary rule. While according to one of the classic sources of constitutionalism, article sixteen of the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, ‘any society in which rights are not guaranteed, or in which the separation of powers is not defined, has no constitution’, the scope of constitutional principles is in fact broader. In addition to these two defining principles, the following are essential: popular sovereignty; the rule of law; rules about the selection of powerholders and about their accountability to the ruled; and principles about the making, unmaking, revision, interpretation and enforcement of a constitution. Despite close affiliations, constitutionalism and democracy are not the same. Whereas democracy is an institutional device which realizes the right of the people to govern themselves, constitutionalism aims to establish institutional restraints on the power of the rulers, even if they are popularly elected and legitimized. Constitutionalism embodies the self-rationalizing and self-restraining principles of popular government.

Citing this article:
Preuss, Ulrich K.. Constitutionalism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S013-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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