Research Conference: The Gap from Parchment to Practice
Ambivalent Effects of Constitutions in Democratizing Countries, May 28-29, 2013
This conference seeks to identify the conditions under which the promulgation of new constitutions in already-democratizing nations does not necessarily foster democratic deepening, but in fact may produce a decline in nations’ levels of democracy. We define such already-democratizing nations as those that were already “free” or “partly free” according to Freedom House, at the time of constitutional promulgation. Using case studies ranging from Colombia (a democratizing constitution) to Venezuela (a constitution which does not improve democracy), and Bolivia (an ambiguous case), the panel identifies conditions under which constitution-making in democratizing nations contributes to improvements or declines in democracy. Existing studies of constitutionalism have taken substantive and legalistic approaches or process-oriented political approaches, but none has combined these. This project pursues a multi-method strategy combining quantitative indicators of democracy, the content of constitutions, and ethnographies of processes used to establish them.