dr. R.G.P. (Rik) Peters
NWO Research Project Contested Democracy
Contested Constitutions, exploring the foundations of modern democracies
In the beginning of the 21st century, the notion of constitutions as the foundation of
democracy has become essentially contested. The growing importance of regional and global
networks and the fragmentation of societies increasingly challenge the ideal of an allembracing
set of foundational norms for the democratic nation state. Recently, the crisis of
constitutionalism has come most clearly to the fore in the European Union. The French and
Dutch 'no' to the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe put an end to the
ratification process. Moreover, the very notion of a European Constitution has become highly
contested: no longer is the question what constitution Europe should adopt, but whether it
needs a constitution at all.
In reaction to these events, a fierce debate on the future of Europe has been reopened.
Opponents of constitutionalization emphasize that the Union cannot adopt a constitution
because there is no European polity. Supporters of the European constitution reject this
argument as old-fashioned nationalist thinking. This confusion has serious consequences for
the relationship between Member States and the Union leading to mind boggling situations at
all levels, with serious implications for day-to-day policy making.
We aim at overcoming the present deadlock by adopting a completely different
approach with regard to the function of constitutions in democracies. The main thesis of this
project is that political language is constitutive for the identity of the polity as it chrystalizes
out in the polity's constitution. On this basis, we carry out a multidisciplinary comparative
historical research on the constitutionalization processes in the United States of America,
France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and the European Union, focusing on the rhetoric of
constitutional discourse. In a learning history, carried out in major Dutch institutions involved
in the constitutionalization of Europe, the results of this research will be made available to
Dutch policy makers. By using the lessons of the past for analyzing contemporary political
problems, we explicitly seek to meet the demands of the programme ‘Contested Democracy’
to provide usable knowledge.
|25 juni 2022 12:30