Why Constitutionalism Matters: The Case for Robust Constitutionalism

Alon Harel


This article is founded on disillusionment with a dominant approach to justifying the legitimacy of constitutions and of judicial review. In the prevailing tradition, constitutionalism is justified by its desirable consequences, e.g., the promotion of justice or democracy. This article disputes this methodological starting point and defends robust constitutionalism. Robust constitutionalism refers to a mode of justification that does not rest on contingent facts. Instead robust constitutionalism defends constitutionalism on the basis of values that are embedded in the very concept of a constitution and in the very essence of judicial review. Constitutional entrenchment of rights is valuable because it constitutes public recognition that the protection of rights is the state’s duty, rather than a mere discretionary gesture on its part. Judicial review is valuable not because it is likely to result in “better” or just decisions, but because judicial review is nothing but a hearing to which individuals are entitled.

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