Looking at the big picture

The constitution and 'the vision thing'

Featured in

  • Published 20190806
  • ISBN: 9781925773798
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THEY WRITE MUSICALS about it in the US; swear by it in Canada; swear about it in Australia; and use as it as a weapon in Sri Lanka. Constitutions matter. But right now they seem troublingly fragile. Governments impose states of exception at will. Basic legal norms are under attack. Authoritarian populists mount brazen assaults on judicial independence, the rule of law and human rights. What difference can a document from another era make?

Constitutions are not just legal structures. They are ‘soft power’. In other countries, constitutional courts have from time to time been prepared to articulate a broader vision of democratic rights and legal values. These visions are not just reliant on written bills of rights. They also draw on underlying legal principles that give those texts a deeper meaning – the inaugural president of the Hungarian Constitutional Court called it the ‘invisible constitution’. Many Australians think of our constitution as little more than a division of power. But where does its legitimacy come from, and what does it stand for?

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

More from author

Groundhog Day

EssayFOR TEN YEARS I lived and worked in Canada. It's a funny feeling, coming home. After years of living overseas the ex-expat (to coin...

More from this edition

Enduring change

EssayPUBLIC INQUIRIES AND their subsequent reports suffer chequered histories in Australia. Some disappear with nary a trace, while others go on to effect real and...


FictionOne must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.