Constitutional community-building in the Netherlands

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference contribution (without a publication)Academic


Conference 'Constitutional communities'

Today almost all countries are “constitutional communities” in a broad sense: their constitution provides the basic framework for their common life. This link between community and constitution is increasingly recognized and there is a growing awareness of the potential of constitutions for societal integration. Jürgen Habermas, with his notion of constitutional patriotism, made the case for a collective identity that does not rely on ethnic nationalism. At the same time, the belief that a constitutional document can be the source of a liberal collective identity has been criticized from various angles. A constitution is typically anchored at the national level, while in a globalized world social integration happens at many different levels. Moreover, courts have used the concept of “constitutional identity” to justify divergent interpretations of the rule of law and human rights and to uphold populist claims. Indigenous people sometimes see constitutional recognition as a new form of assimilation. And some critics have claimed that the concept is empty and abstract: constitutional principles are mostly the same across borders so how can they inspire a sense of community?

These developments raise important questions. How do constitutions create communities? Can they really do so? And should they? These questions can be answered from different disciplinary perspectives. Scholars in constitutional law and in the history of law have studied the working of constitutions since long. But legal and political philosophy should also weigh in, as philosophers from the past and the present have amply studied the relation between written laws and community. The issue of constitutional identity can also be approached from an empirical sociological perspective or even from a literary perspective, as it is ultimately the agency of a text that is at stake here.

By engaging in an interdisciplinary dialogue about constitutions and community, this conference aims to explore the impact that constitutions have and can have in the functioning of communities, and to contribute to our understanding of the concept of constitutional identity.
Period8 Feb 20249 Feb 2024
Held atKU Leuven, Belgium
Degree of RecognitionInternational