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Comparative Matters: The Renaissance of Comparative Constitutional Law

Ran Hirschl


Comparative study has emerged as the new frontier of constitutional law scholarship as well as an important aspect of constitutional adjudication. Increasingly, jurists, scholars, and constitution drafters worldwide accept that “we are all comparativists now.” And yet, despite this tremendous renaissance, the “comparative” aspect, as a method and a project, remains under-theorized and blurry. Fundamental questions concerning the very meaning and purpose of comparative constitutional inquiry, and how it is to be undertaken, are seldom asked, let alone answered. The author addresses this gap by charting the intellectual history of constitutional thought and the analytical underpinnings of comparative constitutional inquiry, probing the various types, aims, epistemology, and methodologies of engagement with the constitutive laws of others through the ages, and exploring how and why comparative constitutional inquiry has been and ought to be more extensively pursued by academics and jurists worldwide. Through extensive exploration of comparative constitutional endeavors past and present, near and far, the author shows how attitudes toward engagement with the constitutive laws of others reflect tensions between particularism and universalism as well as competing visions of who “we” are as a political community. Drawing on insights from social theory, religion, history, political science, and public law, the author argues for an interdisciplinary approach to the study of comparative constitutionalism that is methodologically and substantively preferable to merely doctrinal accounts. It is contended that the future of comparative constitutional studies lies in relaxing the sharp divide between constitutional law and the social sciences.

Bibliographic Information

Ran Hirschl, author

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