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Manchester International Law Centre

A sociology of the transnational constitution

Examining the constitutional order of transnational society.

In contemporary society the dominant design of the political constitution is rapidly changing. This is typically manifest in a reduction of the scope of constituent power in new democracies, in a general weakening of parliamentary legislatures in established democracies, and in a growth in the power and influence of judicial actors in democratic practices.

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Recent decades have witnessed the generalisation of a new model of constitutional rule, which can be classified as judicial constitutionalism or even judicial democracy. This affects contemporary society at a national, a supranational, and a transnational level.

At the level of national polities, the rise of judicial power has triggered an exponential extension of the responsibilities assigned to national courts both for defining constitutional laws and for conducting review of parliamentary legislation.

At the level of supranational polities, for example the EU, judicial bodies applying supranational normative directives obtain heightened prominence in national-state settings, and national courts acting in comity with supranational courts exercise increasing influence on national legislatures. Transnational society more generally, in its entirety, is also in the process of assuming a semi-formal judicial-constitutional order shaped both by primary norms of international law and by a proliferation of (often contested) transnational jurisdictions.

Funded by the European Research Council (Advanced Grant 323656–STC), the aim of this project will be to generate a series of comprehensive macro-sociological analyses of current changes in the legal form of democracy. In particular in seeks to explain the pronounced judicial, rights-based emphasis of contemporary transnational constitutionalism.

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