Introduction: comparative constitutional law – history and contours
Interest in comparative constitutional law has historically come in waves, typically triggered by dramatic examples of constitution-making – in the aftermath of the Second World War, in the era of decolonization and in the third wave of democratization that began with the displacement of Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and continued through the breakdown of the Soviet Union and its satellites in Central and Eastern Europe (Fontana 2011).1 During each wave a persistent set of issues arises about the boundaries of the field: How is it related to the study of comparative politics, for example, or what is its relation to normative theories of liberal constitutionalism?
Current interest in comparative constitutional law is a legacy of the third wave in the late twentieth century. The field appears to have become “self-sustaining”, that is, not dependent upon triggering events. There is an International Association of Constitutional Law, with regular meetings drawing together scholars from around the world, as well as a leading journal, the International Journal of Constitutional Law, dedicated to comparative constitutional law. The decade of the 2010s has already seen the publication of three major research handbooks on comparative constitutional law, each conceiving of the field in slightly different terms (Ginsburg and Dixon 2011; Rosenfeld and Sájo 2012; Tushnet, Fleiner and Saunders 2012).
The field has undergone relatively rapid evolution. Issues that were central to discussions in the 1990s, such as the comparative treatment of hate speech and sexually explicit materials, have fallen...
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