Constitution-making: The Pre-eminently Political Act

  • Daniel J. Elazar


It may appear to be a truism to state that constitution-making is an eminently political act. Never the less, after a generation of withdrawal on the part of many political scientists from consideration of all that is labelled ‘constitutional’ in the world of government and politics, on the grounds that such matters are merely ‘formal’ and hence not ‘real’, it is a truism that needs restating. The case studies in this volume fully demonstrate its validity.


Jewish People Supreme Court Decision Constitutional Change Constitutional Choice Regime Reality 
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  1. 1.
    Vincent Ostrom, ‘Hobbes, Covenant and Constitution’, Publius, 10, 41 (Fall 1980), pp. 83–100; The Political Theory of the Compound Republic, (Blacksburg, Va.: Public Choice, 1971). I am greatly indebted to Professor Ostrom for teaching me how to understand constitution-making and constitutional choice.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist, No. 2. See also Martin Diamond ‘What the Framers Meant by Federalism’, in Robert A. Goldwin (ed.) A Nation of States (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1974), pp. 25–42.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    On American constitutionalism see Andrew McLaughlin, The Foundations of American Constitutionalism (New York: New York University Press, 1932), and The Confederation and the Constitution 1783–1789 (New York, 1981); Martin Diamond, Winston Mills Fisk and Herbert Garfinkel, The Democratic Republic: An Introduction to American National Government, 2nd edn (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1972); and Donald S. Lutz, Popular Consent and Popular Control: Whig Political Theory in the Early State Constitutions (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    For an analysis of this classic constitution, see Ronald L. Peters, The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1978). For the relationship and distinction between covenant and compact, see Daniel J. Elazar, ‘The Political Theory of Covenant: Biblical Origins and Modern Developments’, Publius, 10, 4 (Fall 1980) pp. 3–30. This entire issue Covenant, Policy, and Constitutionalism is devoted to examining the various aspects of the principle.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Ivo Duchacek, Comparative Federalism: The Territorial Dimension of Politics (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970); ‘External and Internal Challenges to the Federal Bargain’, Publius, 5 (Summer 1975).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Daniel J. Elazar, ‘Field Notes — Brazil’, (July—August 1974); William S. Stokes, Latin American Politics (New York: Thomas Crowell, 1959), 19; ‘Constitutions, Law, and the Courts’; also by Stokes, ‘The Centralized Federal Republics of Latin America’, Essays on Federalism (Claremont, California: Claremont Men’s College, Institute for Studies in Federalism, n.d.); Frank Sherwood, Institutionalizing the Grass Roots in Brazil: A Study in Comparative Local Government (San Francisco: Chandler, 1967).Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Jovan Djordjevic, ‘Remarks on the Yugoslav Model of Federalism’, Publius, 5, 2 (Spring 1975) pp. 77–88. See also Steven L. Burg, ‘Republican and Provincial Constitution-Making in Yugoslav Politics’, Publius, 12, 1 (Winter 1982) pp. 131–5.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Herman G. James, The Constitutional System of Brazil (Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution, 1921); and L. S. Rowe, The Federal System of the Argentine Republic (Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution, 1921).Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    See, for instance, Cesar Enrique Diaz Lopez, ‘The State of the Autonomic Process, in Spain’, Publius, 11, 3–4 (Summer 1981) pp. 193–218.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    Denis de Rougemont, La Suisse, ou l’histoire d’un peuple heureux (Lausanne: Le Livre du Moire, 1965); B. Bradfield, The Making of Switzerland (Zurich: Schweitzer Spiegal Verlag, 1964); William Martin, Histoire de las Suisse (Lausanne: Libarie Payot, 1943); and Walther Hohlenstein, Urschweizer Bundesbrief (St Gallen: Aushefurrung durch das Staatsarchiv, 1956).Google Scholar
  11. 16.
    On French constitutionalism, see Ralph Nelson, ‘The Federal Idea in French Political Thought’, Publius, 5, 3 (Summer 1975) pp. 7–63.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    See Filippo Sabetti, ‘The Making of Italy as an Experiment in Constitutional Choice’, Publius, 12, 4 (Fall 1982) pp. 78–93.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Keith G. Banting and Richard Simeon 1985

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  • Daniel J. Elazar

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