Victoria Colloquium: March 6, 2020

Speaker: Richard Bellamy, University College London

Title: “When is Democracy Constitutional? On the Relations between Political, Populist and Popular Constitutionalism”

Time & Location: 2:30pm, Fraser Building room 152

Description: Constitutional democrats tend to argue that the constitutional qualities of democracy are derived from a legal constitutional framework that provides the justiciable foundations for and constraints upon the democratic process. Political constitutionalists have disagreed, arguing instead that a democratic process can be understood as embodying constitutional qualities. However, they have, in turn, been subject to two powerful criticisms. On the one hand, liberal minded constitutional democrats have argued that political constitutionalism encourages populist appeals to the tyranny of the majority which can undermine important constitutional checks on democracy necessary to prevent it undermining both itself and the basic rights of citizens. On the other hand, radical and participatory democrats argue political constitutionalism neglects the role of direct forms of democracy as a means for allowing the people themselves to constitute the democratic process via referendums, and to appeal to the constitution through the courts to contest executive actions that serve the few rather than the many. This piece seeks to defend political constitutionalism against both these criticisms.

Richard Bellamy is Professor of Political Science at UCL. His main research interests are in the History of European Social and Political Theory post-1750 and Contemporary Analytical Legal and Political Philosophy. He has written extensively on the history of both Italian political thought and European liberalism, on Pluralism, Compromise and Public Ethics; Constitutionalism, Rights and the Rule of Law; and Citizenship, Representation and Democracy. His books include Liberalism and Pluralism: Towards a Politics of Compromise; Political Constitutionalism and Citizenship: A Very Short Introduction, and A Republican Europe of States: Cosmopolitanism, Intergovernmentalism and Democracy in the EU.