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ADRO 12A00 - Introduction to Comparative Political Institutions and constitutional law

Type d'enseignement : Lecture and tutorials

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 60

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

The 18th century movement of constitutionalism posited a link between written constitutions and conceptions of Statehood, Nations, Peoples, and the collective regulation of fundamental values through political institutions. Four major waves of democratization (1820-1926; 1945-1960; 1974-1990; 2011-2014), as well as the growing use of constitutionalized political institutions by dictators, although greatly varied in content, have not modified the “constitutionalist” conception of the regulation of political institutions. Understanding the framework in which political institutions are born and organized by and for the State is therefore essential to the comprehension of the modern political regimes. This course compares issues of constitutional and institutional structure by addressing the general principles underlying State constitutions and the choice of political regimes (Lectures 1-4), and then analyzing the implementation process of these principles (Lectures 5-8), and the particularities of contemporary constitutions (Lectures 9-12). Six two hour workshops will allow the student to deepen his/her understanding of specific aspects of the course. Principles of constitutional structure include the analysis of the historical roots of political institutions and constitutions, their underlying goals, and their provisions and formal characteristics. In particular, this first part of the course addresses the following questions: Why and how did modern States emerge? Are institutions endogenous to the State? What are the effects of decentralization of power in unitary or federal States? Can a State exist without a constitution; a constitution without a State? What are the basic elements of constitutions? What are constitutions intended to protect or make possible? What theories have influenced the framers of constitutions? What is the process by which States draft and amend constitutions? What are the different types of government? How can one define majoritarian or self-governing democracy; representative or direct democracy? How does the separation of powers influence institutional design? What is the actual debate confronting “presidentialism” versus “parliamentarism”? How is contemporary institutional design affected by innovative mechanisms tending to strengthen transparency, accountability, direct participation, and deliberation, as well as the regulation of fourth branches? What makes a government legitimate? Process of constitutional implementation: Building on the principles examined in the first section, the second part of the course focuses on the difficult implementation of constitutionalism in France. We will examine French constitutional history in detail as it represents substantially all the species of constitutional regimes that have yet been developed (constitutional monarchy, assembly regime, directorate, consulate, empire, parliamentary regime, presidential regime, “semi-presidential” regime). Two workshops will generalize these principles through the introduction to legal reasoning and interpretation. The reasons for the success or failure of each attempted regime in France will serve as guidelines to the analysis of the regimes discussed in part 3. Particularities of contemporary institutional design: This last section examines the design and evolution of classical parliamentary regimes (Great Britain, India, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Russia) and presidential (United States and Brazil) regimes, as well as specific power sharing mechanisms in divided societies (Switzerland, Belgium, Bosnia, Israel, Lebanon Libya, China, European Union). To further understand the scope of these particularities, a workshop will consider constitutional development and strategy in regional settings: Islamic constitutionalism following the Arab spring, as well as evolutions in Asian, African, and Latin-American constitutionalism. The final workshop will address the contested theory of global constitutionalism.


ALLEN-MESTRALLET, Gretchen (PhD. Lecturer)

Pedagogical format

The course will be divided into 12 two-hour lectures and 6 two-hour workshops. Power points, required readings, and course outline will be available on Google Drive prior to each lecture. The power points and required reading should be studied before each lecture, allowing for 15 minutes of questions and debate at the end of each class hour. Weekly seminars will follow the lectures, and include both practical (case studies and commentaries) and theoretical (essays and debates) exercises. At the end of the course, the student is expected to: 1. Master the language and metalanguage of political institutions and comparative constitutional law (“key words” indicated on each of the 12 seminar outlines and the 6 workshop files). 2. Be able to argue the pros and cons of implementing particular institutional and constitutional choices (“key questions” indicated on each of the 12 seminar outlines and the 6 workshop files) 3. Be able to develop a personal critical issue and thesis concerning the principles, processes, and particularities covered in the class (as illustrated in the outlines of each of the 12 lectures and 6 workshops, and presented weekly in seminars).

Course validation

To validated the course, the student is expected to pass the following assignments: 1/ 2/3 of the final grade is comprised of three equal marks obtained in seminars: one individual presentation (1/3 of the seminar grade), one group presentation (1/3 of the seminar grade), the mean grade of three written quizzes (1/3 of the seminar grade); see details hereafter, page 5 2/ 1/3 of the final grade: final examination (8-minute oral presentation and 12 minutes of questions)

Required reading

Michel Troper. 2012. ‘Sovereignty'. The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law. 350-368

Additional required reading

  • Daniel Halberstam. 2012. ‘Federalism : Theory, Policy, Law'. The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law. 576-608
  • D. Grimm. 2012. ‘Types of Constitutions' (EXCERPTS II. and III, pp 100-114). The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law.
  • G. Frankenberg. 2012. ‘Democracy' (EXCERPTS II: pp 252-256). The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional law
  • Sophie Boyron. 2013. The Constitution of France, Hart Publishing, pgs 15-37