The price of constitutionalism: Transformative constitutionalism and economic success in global perspective

As interest in transformative constitutionalism rises around the world, it is falling in South Africa. A more global account of the concept is overdue, and not only to rejuvenate what have become very inward-looking South African debates. The biggest (if not very surprising) lesson of those debates is the extent to which economic issues are decisive in transformative constitutionalism’s success or failure. The concept’s marriage of constitutional and economic issues is far from the whole of its content, but it is the key to its legitimacy. To state this is to see the inescapable relevance of global and historical debates on these issues that predate by more than a century the invention of the label ‘transformative constitutionalism’ in 1998. Starting from a body of more recent South African scholarship that is little read globally, this paper develops these claims.