The foundations of constitutionalism: an analysis of debaathification

  • Jens MeierhenrichEmail author
Original Paper


This article analyzes the administration of lustration—what Arthur Stinchcombe termed the “social basis of constitutionalism”—and its unintended consequences in comparative and international law and politics. It is concerned with the social function of animating ideas in the evolution of institutions. The article demonstrates that in the case of Iraq, the commitment of institutional engineers and transitional administrators to the idea of purifying the state, and their concomitant willingness to watch the institution of lustration naturally evolve in respect of that central idea, has had disastrous consequences for the foundations of constitutionalism. These consequences flowed from the institutional design of the U.S. occupation more generally. By reconstructing, for the very first time, the evolution of debaathification in contemporary Iraq, this article deepens our understanding of the foundations of constitutionalism. Aside from its contribution to the theory of institutional design, the article also speaks to the ongoing debate over the creation of governments, regimes, and states in the international system. In the context of this debate, which has important implications for the practice of institutional design, the administration of lustration—from within or from without—is an insufficiently understood phenomenon, making it a worthy subject for institutional analysis.


Institutional design Constitutional design Lustration International law International territorial administration Iraq Debaathification 

JEL Classification

D7 H1 K1 K4 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Government and Committee on Degrees in Social StudiesHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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