Contesting a World-Constitution? Anti-Systemic Movements and Constitutional Forms in Ireland, 1848-2008


  • Thomas Murray University College Dublin



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.

Author Biography

Thomas Murray, University College Dublin

Lecturer, School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice, UCD


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How to Cite

Murray, T. (2016). Contesting a World-Constitution? Anti-Systemic Movements and Constitutional Forms in Ireland, 1848-2008. Journal of World-Systems Research, 22(1), 77–107.



Special Issue: Ireland in the World-System