Diffusion and the Constitutionalization of Europe

Elkins, Zachary
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Comparative Political Studies

This article begins with a rather forceful defense of the explanatory role of formal institutions—and, in particular, constitutions—in the study of democratization. Important aspects of constitutions play a significant part in shaping the quality, type, and survival of institutional arrangements in new democracies. With this assumption, the article turns seriously to theories of constitutional design, any of which must grapple with the overwhelming prima facie evidence of constitutional diffusion. It is well known that constitutional ideas travel easily across contexts. However, scholars until now have lacked even basic empirical evidence regarding the patterns of constitutional similarity across time and space. This article introduces exactly this sort of evidence in the context of 19th-century Europe, employing a new data set expressly designed for such a purpose. The analysis uncovers a number of new insights regarding the spread of constitutional ideas in Europe, insights that disturb some of the classic narratives of democratization in these cases.

Elkins, Zachary. “Diffusion and the Constitutionalization of Europe.” 2010. Comparative Political Studies 43: 1-31.