Contesting a World-Constitution? Anti-Systemic Movements and Constitutional Forms in Ireland, 1848-2008
Recent accounts of constitutional development have emphasised commonalities among diverse constitutions in terms of the transnational migration of legal institutions and ideas. World-systems analysis gives critical expression to this emergent intellectual trajectory. Since the late 18th century, successive, international waves of constitution-making have tended to correspond with decisive turning points in the contested formation of the historical capitalist world-system. The present article attempts to think through the nature of this correspondence in the Irish context. Changes to the Irish constitution, I suggest, owed to certain local manifestations of anti-systemic movements within the historical capitalist world-system and to constitution-makers’ attempts to contain – militarily, politically and ideologically – these movements’ democratic and egalitarian ideals and practices. Various configurations of the balance of power in Irish society between ‘national’ (core-peripheral) and ‘social’ (capital-labour/‘other’) forces crystallised in constitutional form. Thus far, conservative and nationalist constitutional projects have tended to either dominate or incorporate social democratic and radical ones, albeit a process continually contested at critical junctures by civil society and by the organised left, both old and new.
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