SMNR: Comparative Constitutionalism

The proliferation of new constitutions in recent years has sharpened interest in a subject that has been around since Aristotle but has not always figured prominently in legal studies.  The comparative analysis of constitutions (and related interpretive and structural issues) is now embraced as an essential component of the public law curriculum.  This course will explore alternative traditions of constitutionalism, connecting them to the broader political cultures from which they have emerged.  It will examine the various shades of meaning underlying political values and moral theories that inform concepts -- for example, liberty, autonomy, equality, and community -- within various constitutional traditions.  It will seek to account for the similarities and differences within the constitutional ideas and arrangements in contrasting systems.  It will explore the role of constitutional courts in polities with varying conceptions of judicial review and its significance.  It will consider alternative approaches to the study of constitutional maintenance and change.  It will attempt to clarify the elusive concepts of constitutional identity and revolution.  It will look closely at the ways in which foreign experience might illuminate and possibly enrich American constitutional understandings. And it will consider how the comparative approach might contribute to contemporary debates among constitutional theorists.

No prerequisites

Requirements: a short reflective paper (20% of grade) and a 25-page research paper (60% of grade).  Class participation (20% of grade)


Class Details

Meeting Days Time Location
Wednesday 3:30 - 6:30 pm BAT 1.104
Exam Type Date Time Alpha Range Room

Additional Information

Course Type
Grading Method
Pass/Fail Allowed


  • The Endurance of Constitutions - Z. Elkins
  • Towards Juristocracy - R. Hirschl
  • Constitutions in Deeply Divided Societies - H. Lerner
  • Fragile Democracies: Contested Power in the Era of Constitutional Courts - Samuel Issacharoff
      Cambridge University Press
      ISBN: 978-1107654549   (required)