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


Anderson, Perry. 2007. “Depicting Europe.” London Review of Books 29 (18):13-21.

Arrighi, Giovanni. 1994. The Long Twentieth Century. London: Verso.

Arrighi, Giovanni, Terence Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein. 2011. Anti-Systemic Movements. New York: Verso.

Bookchin, Murray. 2005. The Ecology of Freedom. Edinburgh: AK Press.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1987. “The Force of Law.” Hastings Law Journal 38: 805-853.

Casey, James. 1970. “Republican Courts in Ireland 1919–1922.” Irish Jurist 5: 321–342.

Chatterjee, Partha. 1994. The Nation and its Fragments. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Chubb, Basil. 1991. The Politics of the Irish Constitution. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration.

Coakley, John and Michael Gallagher. 2010. Politics in the Republic of Ireland. London: Routledge.

Congost, Rosa. 2003. “Property Rights and Historical Analysis.” Past and Present 181: 73-106.

Cousins, Mel. 2005. Explaining the Irish welfare state. New York: Edwin Mellen Press.

Crotty, Raymond. 1986. Ireland in Crisis. Dingle: Brandon Press.

Crotty, Raymond. 1988. A Radical’s Response. Dublin: Poolbeg.

Dáil Debates. Available at Accessed 10.01.2015.

Dooley, Terence. 2004. The Land for the People. Dublin: UCD Press.

Duchacek, Ivo. 1973. Power Maps: The Comparative Politics of Constitutions. California: University of California Press.

Elkins, Zachary, Tom Ginsburg and James Melton. 2009. The Endurance of National Constitutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Elster, Jon. 1995. “Forces and Mechanisms in the Constitution-Making Process.” Duke Law Journal 45: 364-396.

Epp, Charles. 1998. The Rights Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ewing, E.D. 2012. “Economic Rights.” Pp. 1036-1056 in The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law, edited by Michel Rosenfeld and Andras Sajó. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fairclough, Norman. 2003. Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge.

Farrell, Brian (ed.). 1988. De Valera’s Constitution and Ours. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan

Ferriter, Diarmaid. 2005. The Transformation of Ireland: 1900-2000. London: Profile Books.

Fine, Robert. 1985. Democracy and the Rule of Law. London: Pluto.

Fletcher, Ruth. 2001. “Post-Colonial Fragments: Representations of Abortion in Irish Law and Politics.” Journal of Law and Society 28: 568-589.

Garvin, Tom. 1986. “The Anatomy of a Nationalist Revolution: Ireland, 1858-1928”. Comparative Studies in Society and History 28: 468-501.

Gill, Stephen. 1995. “Globalization, Market Civilization, and Disciplinary Neoliberalism.” Millennium 24: 399-412.

Go, Julian. 2003. “A Globalizing Constitutionalism? Views from the Postcolony, 1945-2000.” International Sociology 18: 71–95.

Graeber, David. 2013. The Democracy Project. London: Allen Lane.

Harvey, David. 1989. The Conditions of Postmodernity. Oxford: Blackwell.

Harvey, David. 2007. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hayek, Friedrich. 1990. The Constitution of Liberty. London: Routledge.

Hirschl, Ran. 2007. Towards Juristocracy: the origins and consequences of the new constitutionalism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Hobsbawm, Eric. 1994. Age of extremes: the short twentieth century, 1914-1991. London: Michael Joseph.

Hogan, Gerard. 1997. “The Constitution, Property Rights and Proportionality.” Irish Jurist 32: 373-397.

Hogan, Gerard. 2005. “De Valera, the Constitution and the Historians.” Irish Jurist 40: 293-320.

Inglis, 1998, Moral monopoly: the rise and fall of the Catholic Church in modern Ireland. Dublin: UCD Press

Keane, Ronan. 1983. “Land Use, Compensation and the Community.” Irish Jurist 18: 23-33.

Kelly, John, Gerard Hogan and Gerry Whyte. 2003. J.M. Kelly: The Irish Constitution. Dublin: LexisNexis Butterworths.

Kelly, John. 1967. Fundamental Rights in the Irish Law and Constitution. Dublin: Allen Figgis and Co.

Keogh, Dermot and Andrew McCarthy. 2009. The Making of the Irish Constitution 1937, Cork: Mercier Press.

Kennedy, Duncan. 2006. “Three Globalisations of Law and Legal Thought: 1850-2000.” Pp. 19-73 in The New Law and Economic Development: a Critical Appraisal, edited by David Trubek and Alvaro Santos. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kennedy, John (2009) ‘Why Lisbon Treaty vote has mobilised Ireland's tech multinational leaders’, Irish Independent, 27th August, 2009.

King, Phoebe. 2013. “Neo-Bolivarian Constitutional Design.” Pp. 366-397 in Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions, edited by Denis Galligan and Mila Versteeg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kissane, Bill. 2011. New Beginnings: Constitutionalism and Democracy in Modern Ireland, Dublin: University College Dublin Press.

Kohn, Leo. 1932. The Constitution of the Irish Free State. London: Allen and Unwin.

Kostick, Conor. 2009. Revolution in Ireland, 1917-1923. Cork: Cork University Press.

Kotsonouris, Mary. 1994. Retreat from Revolution: The Dáil Courts, 1920-24, Dublin: Irish Academic Press.

Laffan, Michael. 1999. The Resurrection of Ireland: the Sinn Féin party, 1916-1923, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lee, Joseph. 1989. Ireland 1912-1985. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lentin, Ronit. 1998. “‘Irishness’, the 1937 Constitution and Citizenship: a Gender and Ethnicity View.” Irish Journal of Sociology, 8(1): 5-24.

Lerner, Hanna. 2011. Making Constitutions in Deeply Divided Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

MacLaran, Andrew, Katia Attuyer and Brendan Williams. 2010. “Changing office location patterns and their importance in the peripheral expansion of the Dublin region 1960-2008.” Journal of Irish Urban Studies 7-9: 53-78.

McCabe, Conor. 2011. Sins of the Father: Tracing the decisions that shaped the Irish economy. Dublin: History Press.

McDonald, Henry. 2014. ‘Ireland to close “double Irish” tax loophole’. Guardian. 13th October, 2014.

McGee, Harry. 2012. ‘IFSC lobby group powerful in shaping policy’, Irish Times, 8th October, 2012.

McGraw, Seán. 2012. “Adaptive Governance: The Art of Party Politics.” Pp. 43-63 in Irish Governance in Crisis, edited by Niamh Hardiman. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

McKay, David. 2009. American Politics and Society. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

McMahon, Brian. 1979. “Developments in the Irish Legal System since 1945.” Pp. 83-95 in Ireland: 1945-70, edited by J.J. Lee. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan.

Maillot, Agnès. 2005. New Sinn Féin: Irish republicanism in the twenty-first century. London: Routledge.

Mair, Peter. 2013. Ruling the Void: the hollowing of Western democracy. London: Verso.

Marshall, Thomas. 1950. Citizenship and Social Class. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marx, Karl. 1996a. “‘Introduction’ to the Grundrisse.” Pp.128-157 in Marx’s Later Political Writings, edited by Terrell Carver. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marx, Karl. 1996b. “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.” Pp.31-127 in Marx’s Later Political Writings, edited by Terrell Carver. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Meuwese, Anne. 2013. “Popular Constitution-Making in Iceland.” Pp. 469-496 in Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions, edited by Denis Galligan and Mila Versteeg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mohr, Thomas. 2008. “British Involvement in the Creation of the Constitution of the Irish Free State.” Dublin University Law Journal 30: 166-186.

Murray, Patrick. 2000. Oracles of God: the Roman Catholic Church and Irish politics, 1922-37. Dublin: University College Dublin Press.

Murray, Thomas. 2015. “Socio-Economic Rights Versus Social Revolution? Constitution Making in Germany, Mexico and Ireland, 1917–1923.” Social & Legal Studies 24/4: 1-22.

O’Connor, Emmet, 2011. A Labour History of Ireland 1824-2000. Dublin: University College Dublin Press.

O’Hearn, Denis. 2001. The Atlantic Economy: Britain, the US and Ireland. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

O’Morain, Padraig. 2003. Access to Justice For All. Dublin: FLAC.

Peebles, Gustav. 1997. “‘A Very Eden of the Innate Rights of Man’? A Marxist Look at the European Union Treaties and Case Law.” Law & Social Inquiry 22: 581-618.

Pyne, Peter. 1970. “The Third Sinn Féin party, 1923-1926.” Economic and Social Review 1: 29-50, 229-57.

Right2Water, 2015, Policy Principles for a Progressive Irish Government. Available at:; accessed 26 May 2015.

Slater, Eamonn and Terrence McDonough. 2008. “Marx on 19th Century Colonial Ireland: Analysing Colonialism beyond Dependency Theory.” NIRSA Working Paper 36: 1-35.

Stone Sweet, Alec. 2010. “The European Court of Justice and the judicialization of EU governance.” Living Reviews in European Governance 5: 5-50.

Stone Sweet, Alec. 2011. “Constitutions, Rights, and Judicial Power.” Pp. 162-80 in Comparative Politics, edited by Daniele Caramani. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sturgess, Garry and Philip Chubb. 1988. Judging the World: Law and politics in the world's leading courts. London: Butterworths.

Sunstein, Cass. 2004. The Second Bill of Rights. New York: Basic.

Thornhill, Chris. 2013. A Sociology of Constitutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tulloch, Hugh. 1980. “A.V. Dicey and the Irish Question: 1870-1922.” Irish Jurist 15: 137-165.

Tushnet, Mark. 2009. Weak Courts, Strong Rights: Judicial Review and Social Welfare Rights. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

University College Dublin Archives (UCDA): Papers of Hugh Kennedy (P4), Alfred O’Rahilly (P178) and Éamon de Valera (P150).

Unger, Roberto. 2009. The Left Alternative. London: Verso.

Walker, Neil. 2013. “The Shifting Foundations of the European Union Constitution.” P p. 637-60 in Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions, edited by Denis Galligan and Mila Versteeg. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2004. World-systems Analysis: an introduction. Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2011. “Structural Crisis in the World-System: Where Do We Go from Here?” Monthly Review 62 (10): 1-7.

Wilkinson, Brian. 1989. “Workers, Constitutions and the Irish Judiciary: A Jurisprudence of Labour Liberty?” Irish Jurist 24: 198-226.

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