The making of constitutions is both ubiquitous and poorly understood. It is ubiquitous because constitutions are a central feature of the modern nation-state, but do not generally last very long. It is poorly understood in part because of the sheer diversity of environments in which constitutions are produced. Consider a few examples from the recent wave of constitution-making in the Arab spring. Six countries have engaged in some form of constitutional revision, but in only one, Tunisia, is the outcome anything like the consolidation of a new political order. Other cases have been more successful. In some countries like South Africa and Spain, constitution-making provided a discrete moment of national reconstruction. We also observe calls for new constitutions in stable democracies like Chile, where some yearn for a new document untainted by the shadow of the past.
Constitutions play many different functions and roles: political bargains, social contracts, sources of benefits for interest-groups, devices for the protection of fundamental rights, embodiments of core values, and signals to external actors. Yet regardless of the way in which a constitution is conceptualized, there is now an almost standard set of decisions that must be made, with choices about form of government, rights, judicial power and other features all embodied in a single text. Constitution-making is the process of producing these texts; constitution-building is the temporally extended process of creating functioning institutions and processes of governance.
Edited by Sujit Choudhry and Tom Ginsburg, Constitution Making, collects some of the most important academic contributions on constitution-making. Focusing on a set of important case studies, yet also featuring classic articles on the subject, this volume is a critical assembly of theoretical literature. Ensuring wide geographic and historical coverage, and including an original introduction by the editors, this collection provides an essential overview of the myriad of circumstances in which constitutions can be made.