Constitutional Change as “Ordinary Politics”: The Misfortunes of a Semi-rigid Constitution for Brazilian Democracy

This paper uses Ackerman's distinction between ordinary and extraordinary politics to understand processes of constitutional change in Brazil. We intend to highlight the insufficiency of Ackerman’s model for a country with a semi-rigid constitution, extensive social rights provisions, and a reluctant democratic political culture. We discuss the impairment of Brazilian democratic deliberation and its consequences both for constitutional politics and the protection of social rights. The paper also explores the causes of the Constitution's loss of normativity: lavish constitutionalization of economic and social provisions, relatively flexible processes of constitutional amendment, and the deleterious features of the political and electoral system. The article concludes that ordinary politics migrated to formal channels of constitutional reform, disfiguring the essence of the Brazilian Constitution and putting in jeopardy the republican pact established after the dictatorship cycle.