The material constitution in the longue durée: reflections on the Chilean constitutional dilemma

What conditions must be met for giving normative weight to historical assertions about the material constitution? This paper looks at this question using as its starting point the case of Chile, where President Michelle Bachelet sought in her second administration (2014-2018) to frame the persistent constitutional debate about how to amend or replace the text enacted in 1980 by Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship as a search for “the best aspects of our constitutional tradition”. Using a historical, longue durée perspective, this presentation will argue that only a constituent strategy that recognizes the “structures of repetition”, to put it in Koselleckian terms, that characterize that tradition, and that does not seek to interpret them in their Dworkinian “best light” but rather embraces a fully materialist analysis of the historical constitution, will be able to realize the aspiration towards constitutional emancipation of the Chilean people.