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What's Democracy Got to Do With It?: A Critique of Liberal Constitutionalism
Comparative Research in Law & Political Economy
  • Allan Hutchinson, Osgoode Hall Law School of York University
  • Joel I. Colón-Ríos
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  • democracy,
  • Dworkin,
  • liberal constitutionalism
This paper examines the extent to which Ronald Dworkin's liberal constitutionalism, as presented in his recent work "Is Democracy Possible Here? Principles for a New Political Debate," can provide the basis and impetus for the realization of democracy in contemporary societies. The paper is divided into three main sections. We begin by locating the broader institutional contexts within which debates about the importance and salience of democratic politics have taken place and introducing Dworkin's distinctive and defiant contribution to those debates. In the second and main section, we offer a substantial critique of Dworkin's proposals and demonstrate how his (and fellow constitutionalists') liberal project may be as much a part of the problem as the solution. That critique is divided into four parts, it includes a series of philosophical, political, constitutional, and historical arguments against the democratic credentials of Dworkin's project. The third section explores a different approach to how democracy can be more effectively and fully mobilized to meet present-day challenges, the emphasis here is on more affirmative and constructive proposals. By way of conclusion, we speculate on the directions that further efforts might take to fulfill the promise of democratic politics in contemporary societies. We maintain that, if democracy is to be realizable, then it needs to be of a more robust and less derivative kind than Dworkin's liberal project envisages. Rather than arguing that any remnants of constitutionalism should be abandoned, we propose to re-dress as we challenge the supposed balance between constitutionalism and democracy and, in its place, combine a strong democracy with a weak constitutionalism.
Citation Information
Allan Hutchinson and Joel I. Colón-Ríos. "What's Democracy Got to Do With It?: A Critique of Liberal Constitutionalism" (2007)
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