Formal, Informal and Real Constitutions: The Various Expressions of Constitutional Norms

Recent work on constitutional change explores aspects of constitutional change from a diverse set of perspectives, in a diverse set of contexts, and directed towards a diverse range of focuses.

But a diverse set of conceptions are also being relied on, leaving the theory behind constitutional change fragmented, inconsistent, and at times incoherent. In particular, distinctions are now often drawn between formal and informal types of constitutional change, but the conceptions are defined and explained differently, betraying a lack of terminological and theoretical consensus, that can confuse scholarly discussion.

In an effort to address this gap, this paper will present a new overarching conceptual framework that can be used to distinguish and explain important distinctions between a formal, informal and real conception of a constitution, by focusing on the multiple and distinct ways in which constitutional norms are expressed, and ultimately change over time.