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Costas Stratilatis

Abstract

The aim of this essay is to present and then to critically discuss some arguments that have cast serious doubt on whether the conception of democratic constituent power is appropriate for, and should be invoked in, divided, conflict-ridden societies to avoid or fend off, among others, the prospect of a constitutional imposition. The author’s main argument is that the conception of democratic constituent power in such cases can be a matrix of normative (and potentially legalized) principles and standards, which do not preclude the intervention of external powers as such, but frame the demand for self-restraint as regards the forms, the aims, the intensity and the extent of such intervention. The invocation of the constituent power of ‘We the People’ in divided societies entails important risks, and one should take recourse to its rhetorical use only upon prudential, consequentialist considerations,
which should include the possible exclusionary effects of the nationalist version of constituent power. Nevertheless, the prudential calculus can also indicate that such invocation may become useful as a reference point for a  forward-looking learning (and potentially therapeutic) process, which will not aspire to simply obliterate the past and its original sins. Ultimately, everything depends on the context and on the virtues of the people and of their leaders.

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Keywords

democratic constituent power, internationalized pouvoir constituant, constitutional imposition, external intervention in constitution-making, forward-looking learning process, divided societies, conflict-ridden societies

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