Unstable Constitutionalism: Law and Politics in South Asia

Cambridge University Press
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Although the field of constitutional law has become increasingly comparative in recent years, its geographic focus has remained limited. South Asia, despite being the site of the world's largest democracy and a vibrant if turbulent constitutionalism, is one of the important neglected regions within the field. This book remedies this lack of attention by providing a detailed examination of constitutional law and practice in five South Asian countries: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Identifying a common theme of volatile change, it develops the concept of 'unstable constitutionalism', studying the sources of instability alongside reactions and responses to it. By highlighting unique theoretical and practical questions in an underrepresented region, Unstable Constitutionalism constitutes an important step toward truly global constitutional scholarship.
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About the author

Mark Tushnet is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. His important works in the field of comparative constitutional law include Advanced Introduction to Comparative Constitutional Law (2014), The Routledge Handbook of Constitutional Law (co-edited, 2012) and the leading handbook, Weak Courts, Strong Rights: Judicial Review and Social Welfare Rights in Comparative Constitutional Law (2009).

Madhav Khosla is currently a PhD candidate at the Department of Government at Harvard University, Massachusetts. He is the author of The Indian Constitution (2012) and is currently co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Indian Constitutional Law.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Published on
Sep 17, 2015
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Pages
415
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ISBN
9781316419083
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / Comparative
Law / Constitutional
Law / General
Political Science / Comparative Politics
Political Science / General
Social Science / Black Studies (Global)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Here a leading scholar in constitutional law, Mark Tushnet, challenges hallowed American traditions of judicial review and judicial supremacy, which allow U.S. judges to invalidate "unconstitutional" governmental actions. Many people, particularly liberals, have "warm and fuzzy" feelings about judicial review. They are nervous about what might happen to unprotected constitutional provisions in the chaotic worlds of practical politics and everyday life. By examining a wide range of situations involving constitutional rights, Tushnet vigorously encourages us all to take responsibility for protecting our liberties. Guarding them is not the preserve of judges, he maintains, but a commitment of the citizenry to define itself as "We the People of the United States." The Constitution belongs to us collectively, as we act in political dialogue with each other--whether in the street, in the voting booth, or in the legislature as representatives of others.

Tushnet urges that we create a "populist" constitutional law in which judicial declarations deserve no special consideration. But he warns that in so doing we must pursue reasonable interpretations of the "thin Constitution"--the fundamental American principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution. A populist Constitution, he maintains, will be more effective than a document exclusively protected by the courts. Tushnet believes, for example, that the serious problems of the communist scare of the 1950s were aggravated when Senator Joseph McCarthy's opponents were lulled into inaction, believing that the judicial branch would step in and declare McCarthy's actions unconstitutional. Instead of fulfilling the expectations, the Court allowed McCarthy to continue his crusade until it was ended. Tushnet points out that in this context and in many others, errors occurred because of the existence of judicial review: neither the People nor their representatives felt empowered to enforce the Constitution because they mistakenly counted on the courts to do so. Tushnet's clarion call for a new kind of constitutional law will be essential reading for constitutional law experts, political scientists, and others interested in how and if the freedoms of the American Republic can survive into the twenty-first century.

Here a leading scholar in constitutional law, Mark Tushnet, challenges hallowed American traditions of judicial review and judicial supremacy, which allow U.S. judges to invalidate "unconstitutional" governmental actions. Many people, particularly liberals, have "warm and fuzzy" feelings about judicial review. They are nervous about what might happen to unprotected constitutional provisions in the chaotic worlds of practical politics and everyday life. By examining a wide range of situations involving constitutional rights, Tushnet vigorously encourages us all to take responsibility for protecting our liberties. Guarding them is not the preserve of judges, he maintains, but a commitment of the citizenry to define itself as "We the People of the United States." The Constitution belongs to us collectively, as we act in political dialogue with each other--whether in the street, in the voting booth, or in the legislature as representatives of others.

Tushnet urges that we create a "populist" constitutional law in which judicial declarations deserve no special consideration. But he warns that in so doing we must pursue reasonable interpretations of the "thin Constitution"--the fundamental American principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution. A populist Constitution, he maintains, will be more effective than a document exclusively protected by the courts. Tushnet believes, for example, that the serious problems of the communist scare of the 1950s were aggravated when Senator Joseph McCarthy's opponents were lulled into inaction, believing that the judicial branch would step in and declare McCarthy's actions unconstitutional. Instead of fulfilling the expectations, the Court allowed McCarthy to continue his crusade until it was ended. Tushnet points out that in this context and in many others, errors occurred because of the existence of judicial review: neither the People nor their representatives felt empowered to enforce the Constitution because they mistakenly counted on the courts to do so. Tushnet's clarion call for a new kind of constitutional law will be essential reading for constitutional law experts, political scientists, and others interested in how and if the freedoms of the American Republic can survive into the twenty-first century.

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