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Constitutional Idolatry and Democracy
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Constitutional Idolatry and Democracy

Challenging the Infatuation with Writtenness

9781788971096 Edward Elgar Publishing
Brian Christopher Jones, Lecturer in Law, School of Law, University of Sheffield, UK
Publication Date: 2020 ISBN: 978 1 78897 109 6 Extent: 224 pp
Constitutional Idolatry and Democracy investigates the increasingly important subject of constitutional idolatry and its effects on democracy. Focussed around whether the UK should draft a single written constitution, it suggests that constitutions have been drastically and persistently over-sold throughout the years, and that their wider importance and effects are not nearly as significant as constitutional advocates maintain. Chapters analyse whether written constitutions can educate the citizenry, invigorate voter turnout, or deliver ‘We the People’ sovereignty.

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Critical Acclaim
Contents
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This thought-provoking book investigates the increasingly important subject of constitutional idolatry and its effects on democracy. Focussed around whether the UK should draft a single written constitution, it suggests that constitutions have been drastically and persistently over-sold throughout the years, and that their wider importance and effects are not nearly as significant as constitutional advocates maintain.

Analysing a number of issues in relation to constitutional performance, including whether these documents can educate the citizenry, invigorate voter turnout, or deliver ‘We the People’ sovereignty, the author finds written constitutions consistently failing to meet expectations. This innovative book also examines how constitutional idolatry may frustrate and distort constitutional change, and can lead to strong forms of constitutional paternalism emerging within the state. Ultimately, the book argues that idolising written constitutions is a hollow endeavour that will fail to produce better democratic outcomes or help solve increasingly complicated societal problems.

Engaging and accessible, Constitutional Idolatry and Democracy will be a key resource for both new and established scholars interested in comparative constitutional law, constitutional theory, law and democracy and written vs. unwritten constitutions.
Critical Acclaim
‘It is a thought-provoking book, and contains a huge array of ideas, information and literature, some of it slightly out of the way. The author argues his case powerfully, often convincingly, and commendably concisely. . . every public lawyer and student of public law would benefit from reading it to test their assumptions.’
– David Feldman, Law Quarterly Review

‘This is an important and timely intervention.’
– Tanzil Chowdhury, Public Law

‘The distinctive value in Jones’s contribution here is the breadth and depth with which he engages with and analyzes one of the core (but often overlooked) distinctions in constitutional theory.’
– Edward Willis, I•CON

‘What Jones does in this book is to make a bold statement: written constitutions have become idols, and the time is past due for us to put aside the false faith that they are the saviours of society.’
– Renato Saeger M Costa, University of Queensland Law Journal

‘Jones systematically asks the sceptical questions that must be asked in any serious conversation about constitutional codification.’
– Asanga Welikala, JOTWELL

‘Constitutional Idolatry and Democracy is a thought-provoking and timely work that presents its case in an accessible manner.’
– James R Zink, Governance

‘I can’t imagine a better book to discuss in a seminar, whether of students or senior academics.’
– Sanford Levinson, IACL-AIDC blog

‘This is a timely intervention in the debates over the necessity, sufficiency and desirability of written constitutions and one which speaks directly to both United States and United Kingdom audiences.’
– Janet McLean, University of Auckland, New Zealand

‘This powerful book explores the limits of written constitutions and the ways in which we idolise them. Jones develops an impressive critique of dominant constitutional thinking, assessing the broader impact of written constitutions on our democracy, our politics and our citizens. The book offers an important challenge to those who assume a written constitution is the best way to reform the UK’s political system, and clearly reveals the risks of overstating what written constitutionalism can achieve.’
– Michael Gordon, University of Liverpool, UK

‘In this wide-ranging, innovative, and truly excellent study of constitutional forms, Brian Christopher Jones challenges the conventional wisdom that codified constitutions hold decisive advantages over uncodified ones. From one chapter to the next, Jones takes readers on a voyage around the world, drawing from his rich repository of deep comparative insights to identify, elaborate, and theorize the dangerous consequences of constitutional idolatry that inhere in master-text constitutions. From now on, no defense of constitutional codification will ever be complete without confronting the compelling arguments in this important work.’
– Richard Albert, The University of Texas at Austin, US
Contents
Contents: 1. What is constitutional idolatry? 2. Venerating a text: some positive aspects of constitutional idolatry 3. Educating the citizenry? 4. The reality of ‘We the People’ constitutional claims 5. Invigorating democracies? 6. A ‘good’ constitution is essential to state survival 7. Constitutional paternalism: the rise and problematic use of constitutional guardian rhetoric 8. Idolatry and constitutional change 9. Constitutional idolatry and democracy: a preliminary conclusion Index


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