CECS lunch seminar with Eoin Carolan

"Investigating authority in constitutional systems"

From Poland to the US, Latin America to Brexit Britain, political, social and institutional developments challenge core tenets of constitutional government: a loss of public faith in traditional sources of constitutional authority; a rise in authoritarian leaders and populist movements; increased recourse to non-legal or quasi-plebiscitary means of exerting power; and a rejection by some political leaders of the countervailing authority of other institutions (eg, courts) or constitutional norms (eg, minority rights).

That this has led in some states to the rapid takeover of constitutional structures by political forces hostile to previously-stable constitutional norms poses a key puzzle for constitutional scholars. Why were states which met the prescriptions of liberal constitutionalism – strong separation of powers, an independent judiciary and extensive rights protection – unable to prevent the accumulation of power by authoritarian leaders?

Constitutional law - especially in domestic systems - tendency towards formal analysis means that policy-makers and observers often lack a mechanism for identifying and addressing a divergence between constitutional form and substance; between the constitution-as-law, and the constitution-as-everyday-experience.

This paper considers the potential of an authority-oriented approach that, by eschewing traditional typologies; could offer a context-sensitive account of constitutional realities; and which may, in turn, potentially explain and anticipate the capacity of a constitutional system to meet the contemporary challenges to democratic (Diamond) and constitutional (Corrias) government.

Eoin Carolan is a Full Professor at University College Dublin, where he is also Director of the Centre for Constitutional Studies. He was recently awarded a €2m grant under the ERC Consolidator Scheme. His project on "The Foundations of Institutional Authority" will investigate the relationship between authority and socio-political forces such as populism or declining public trust in different states. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including "The Right to Privacy: A Doctrinal and Comparative Analysis" (Round Hall, 2008), "The Irish Constitution: Governance and Values" (eds) (Round Hall, 2008), "The New Separation of Powers: A Theory for the Modern State" (Oxford University Press, 2009), "The Irish Constitution: Perspectives and Prospects (Bloomsbury, 2012) and "Judicial Power in Ireland" (ed), (IPA, 2018). He was awarded the 2011 Kevin Boyle Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship for "The New Separation of Powers: A Theory for the Modern State".

Registration is not required.

Feel free to bring your own lunch bag.