Drawing on and generalizing from Singapore’s constitutional experience, this article develops the idea that our understanding of constitutionalism should be pluralized, expanded from a simple binary concept in which liberal constitutionalism stands against authoritarianism. The Singaporean example suggests that there might be “authoritarian constitutionalism” as well. The article criticizes standard accounts in which authoritarian leaders and rulers in dominant-party states adhere to constitutional norms for purely self-interested reasons, arguing that the leaders’ domination of the constitutional system makes it impossible for them to assure subjects that they will continue to adhere to constitutional norms. Authoritarian constitutionalism, in contrast, involves a normative commitment to some degree of civil liberties and civil rights on the part of the regime’s leaders. The article closes with some speculations about the conditions under which authoritarian constitutionalism might be both viable and appropriate.

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About Mark Tushnet

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