The Spirit of Constitutionalism

The essay argues that constitutionalism is generated and underpinned by a specific spirit, that constitutes the fundamental point of the constitutional enterprise. That spirit is hostility to arbitrary power. The spirit of constitutionalism is under sustained attack in many countries, prominent among them Poland and Hungary, and it needs defence. The essay explores the various available relationships between letter and spirit, including those generated by contemporary ‘abusive constitutionalism’ as it is practised in Poland and Hungary. It also suggests some kinds of responses appropriate for scholars, lawyers, and citizens, in response to this defiling of the spirit of constitutionalism.