The Identity of the Constitutional Subject: Selfhood, Citizenship, Culture, and Community, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Identity of the Constitutional Subject

Selfhood, Citizenship, Culture, and Community, 1st Edition

By Michel Rosenfeld


330 pages

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pub: 2009-10-13
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The last fifty years has seen a worldwide trend toward constitutional democracy. But can constitutionalism become truly global?

Relying on historical examples of successfully implanted constitutional regimes, ranging from the older experiences in the United States and France to the relatively recent ones in Germany, Spain and South Africa, Michel Rosenfeld sheds light on the range of conditions necessary for the emergence, continuity and adaptability of a viable constitutional identity - citizenship, nationalism, multiculturalism, and human rights being important elements.

The Identity of the Constitutional Subject is the first systematic analysis of the concept, drawing on philosophy, psychoanalysis, political theory and law from a comparative perspective to explore the relationship between the ideal of constitutionalism and the need to construct a common constitutional identity that is distinct from national, cultural, ethnic or religious identity.

The Identity of the Constitutional Subject will be of interest to students and scholars in law, legal and political philosophy, political science, multicultural studies, international relations and US politics.


"The Identity of the Constitutional Subject is a book of breadth, depth and impressive learning. It sets a new standard in comparative constitutional analysis." - Joseph Weiler, University Professor and Joseph Straus Professor, New York University School of Law

"When the Constitution "speaks", who is actually speaking? And to whom? What about? These old questions are treated by Michel Rosenfeld in an exciting and refreshingly novel way. Using his formidable philosophical and comparative-constitutional expertise, oscillating effortlessly between legal systems as different as the United States and France, Spain and Hungary; referring to thinkers as different as Freud and Rawls, Lacan and Rousseau – Rosenfeld has offered a profound and powerful analysis of "the constitutional subject" that will become essential reading for all those dealing with constitutional theory, comparative law, and political philosophy." -Wojciech Sadurski, Challis Professor of Jurisprudence, The University of Sydney

"The challenge of pluralism, writes Michel Rosenfeld, is to forge a political structure held together by a fixed set of norms while leaving room for an accommodation with those who do not accept those norms. The promise and the difficulties of this necessary project are the subjects of Rosenfeld’s magisterial synthesis of political, psychological, theological and theoretical perspectives on the subject of constitutionalism. The result is a trenchant and historically nuanced exploration of issues no one and no nation can afford to ignore."Stanley Fish, Professor of Law, Florida International University

"Michel Rosenfeld has written a provocative and erudite exploration of paradoxes of identity, national and constitutional. Informed by his wide knowledge of constitutionalism around the world, the book offers an account of the different ways in which a nation whose population changes over time can have an enduring national identity and how those different ways can be tied to different forms of national constitutions which do not change over time. As with all important contributions to constitutional theory, not all readers will agree with Professor Rosenfeld's arguments, but the field will surely benefit from his work." Mark Tushnet, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Table of Contents

Introduction Part 1: Why Constitutional Identity and for Whom? 1. The Constitutional Subject: Singular, Plural or Universal? 2. The Constitutional Subject and the Clash of Self and Other: On the Uses of Negation, Metaphor and Metonymy Part 2: Producing Constitutional Identity 3. Reinventing Tradition through Constitutional Interpretation: The Case of Unremunerated Rights in the United States 4. Recasting and Reorienting Identity through Constitution-Making: The Pivotal Case of Spain’s 1978 Constitution Part 3: Constitutional Identity as Bridge Between Self and Other: Binding Together Citizenship, History and Society 5. Constitutional Models: Shaping, Nurturing and Guiding the Constitutional Subject 6. Models of Constitution Making 7. The Constitutional Subject and Clashing Visions of Citizenship: Can We be Beyond what We are Not? 8. Can the Constitutional Subject go Global? Imagining a Convergence of the Universal, the Particular and the Singular

About the Author

Michel Rosenfeld is Justice Sydney L. Robins Professor of Human Rights, at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Rosenfeld teaches and is widely published in the fields of American and comparative constitutional law and legal philosophy. His books include Affirmative Action and Justice: A Philosophical and Constitutional Inquiry (1991); Just Interpretations: Law Between Ethics and Politics (1998); and Comparative Constitutionalism: Cases and Materials (2003).

About the Series

Discourses of Law

This successful and exciting series seeks to publish the most innovative scholarship at the intersection of law, philosophy and social theory. The books published in the series are distinctive by virtue of exploring the boundaries of legal thought. The work that this series seeks to promote is marked most strongly by the drive to open up new perspectives on the relation between law and other disciplines. The series has also been unique in its commitment to international and comparative perspectives upon an increasingly global legal order. Of particular interest in a contemporary context, the series has concentrated upon the introduction and translation of continental traditions of theory and law.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Constitutional
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Civics & Citizenship