Constitutional Law

A Sociology of Constitutions: Constitutions and State by Chris Thornhill

By Chris Thornhill

Utilizing a technique that either analyzes specific constitutional texts and theories and reconstructs their historic evolution, Chris Thornhill examines the social position and legitimating prestige of constitutions from the 1st quasi-constitutional files of medieval Europe, in the course of the classical interval of innovative constitutionalism, to contemporary tactics of constitutional transition. A Sociology of Constitutions explores the explanations why smooth societies require constitutions and constitutional norms and offers a particular socio-normative research of the constitutional preconditions of political legitimacy.

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4 However, feudal societies, or at least societies at a relatively early stage of feudalization, were pervasively shaped by very irregular and personalistic patterns of lordship and legal settlement, and, as 3 4 overarching social system, with uniform characteristics and a clear beginning and a clear end. I simply use it to describe a particular mode of socio-political organization, accepted as a reality (albeit not in England) even by Richardson and Sayles (1963: 118), in which ‘sovereignty was divided between the king and his feudatories’.

It was only through the abstraction of political power as a positive autonomous object that societies assumed features of spatial and temporal extensibility, positive inclusion and collective integration typical of modern social orders. Modern political institutions, then, first evolved, variably, as repositories of such abstracted and autonomous political power, and the progressive abstraction of political power gave rise to the formation of political institutions: political institutions were not initially identical with political power, and their development reflected the emergence of political power as a relatively autonomous and structurally independent social phenomenon.

1 This does not imply that the highly localized jurisdictional structures based in lordship, lateral association and private force that characterized earlier feudalism had dissolved by the twelfth century. In fact, a recent outstanding monograph has persuasively demonstrated the contrary (Bisson 2009). However, by the later twelfth century many European societies were beginning to develop more regularly constructed legal and political systems, and they were in the process of devising at least the bare practical and conceptual instruments to make this possible.

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