Universiteit Leiden

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Informal constitutional change

On Thursday November 9th, 2017 at 13:45h, Reijer Passchier will be defending his dissertation in the Groot Auditorium of Leiden University. His thesis supervisor is Professor Wim Voermans. All are welcome!

Reijer Passchier

Today, virtually every country in the world has a written constitution that contains a special amendment procedure. These procedures are designed to regulate constitutional change. However, formal constitutional amendment is not the only way in which constitutional norms change, and in some systems not even the most important. To the contrary, it appears to be more common for constitutional norms to adjust to changing circumstances and demands through alternative, ‘informal’ processes of change. 

Key Questions

Key questions, central to Reijer’s dissertation are: how should we understand and identify constitutional change that takes place without (prior) formal constitutional amendment? Why do significant constitutional developments sometimes occur without new constitutional writing? And are alternative mechanisms of constitutional change capable of functionally substituting formal constitutional amendment mechanisms? 

Law v. politics

Examining and comparing topical cases from Japan, the United States and Germany, my dissertation not only sheds new light on questions regarding the phenomenon of informal constitutional change itself, it also compels us to rethink our ideas about how the realms of law and politics relate to one another across time. Exploring the important – yet understudied – phenomenon of informal constitutional change is particularly relevant at a time when the context in which constitutional norms are embedded is changing more rapidly than ever.

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