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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 21, 2018

Opting Out of “Global Constitutionalism”

  • Ran Hirschl EMAIL logo


Much has been written about the global convergence on constitutional supremacy. Yet, a closer look suggests that while constitutional convergence trends are undoubtedly extensive and readily visible, expressions of constitutional resistance or defiance may in fact be regaining ground worldwide. This may point to a paradox embedded in global constitutionalism: the more expansive constitutional convergence trends are, the greater the likelihood of dissent and resistance are. In this article, I chart the contours of three aversive responses to constitutional convergence: neo-secessionism, nullification, and deference to local authority, and draw on an array of comparative examples to illustrate the distinct logic and characteristics of each of these responses. Taken together, these increasingly common expressions of defiance provide ample evidence that global constitutionalism is not the only game in town. Neo-secessionism, nullification, and other forms of constitutional dissent and “opting out” may thus be viewed as a reaction against the centralization of authority and the decline of the local in an increasingly—constitutionally and otherwise—universalized reality.


An earlier version of this essay was presented at the “Global Constitutionalism and Human Rights” workshop, Boston College (1–2 December 2016). I thank the workshop participants as well as the journal’s editors and anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions. Special thanks to Ayelet Shachar for the illuminating conversations as well as to Jan Mertens, Franziska Berg, Matthew Milne, and Karlson Leung for their meticulous research assistance.

Published Online: 2018-6-21
Published in Print: 2018-6-26

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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