The View From Nowhere in Constitutional Theory: A Methodological Inquiry

Constitutional theory is still on a quest of self-definition as a field of inquiry and consequently is ripe for methodological reassessment. This paper explores the role of comparison in constitutional theorising. Insofar as it finds itself in close conversation with disciplines such as political and legal theory, constitutional theory has developed hybrid methodological tools. It often finds it difficult to occupy the space between ideal and non-ideal theory. It may employ tools such as analogy and extrapolation, but frequently decontextualises or generalises from cherry picked or ‘usual suspect’ case studies. The rich methodological advances in cognate fields such as comparative constitutional law and comparative politics offer insights into how constitutional theory can embrace contextualism and robust comparison. Our aim should be to avoid a ‘view from nowhere’ approach that mistakes for objectivity what are ultimately contextual impoverishment and comparative blindness.