The Paradox of Liberal Constitutionalism: a Call for Communal Constitutionalism

The question whether or not, in troubled times, liberal constitutionalism is becoming a minority position, must address a paradox, which has been haunting it since its birth. While proclaiming itself a universal, all-inclusive doctrine, liberal constitutionalism has always been a particular doctrine for particular categories of individuals. The claim of liberal constitutionalism has been that the values it relies upon, e.g. the rule of law, human dignity, equality are worthy as such. Integration through law and communicative rationality would herald a new era of progress, whereby the laggards would not be left behind, and those standing outside would be let inside. The promising vocabulary of liberalism, enriched through the idiom of globalization, was formally at everybody’s disposal. No one was supposed to be left out. This narrative has unfolded over the years, despite the strident contradictions hidden behind it. In reality, the vocabulary of liberalism was only at the disposal of some, not all. It excluded just as much as it included. It was often couched in terms of neutrality, while hiding divisiveness.

Transnational integration through law has stalled in the very place that was supposed to epitomize it: the European Union. Every time the people have been evoked, either as constituent power, or as circulating citizens within the internal market, or as masses of refugees escaping war or famine, the European Union has been called upon to put in practice its liberal democratic ethos – to no avail ...

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