Pouvoir constituant and pouvoir irritant in the postnational order

800px-Le_Serment_du_Jeu_de_paumeI have a new piece on “Pouvoir constituant and pouvoir irritant in the postnational order” out in the International Journal of Constitutional Law today. It forms part of a symposium on the continuing relevance of the idea of constituent power beyond the state, with a number of very interesting – and quite diverging – assessments. The point of my piece is that the current postnational order leaves little space for a meaningful role of constituent power, but that the idea lives on as a helpful irritant of political and societal structures which often remain beyond our control. A longer abstract is below. The full text of the article can be accessed here.

Pouvoir constituant and pouvoir irritant in the postnational order: Abstract
Constituent power is a key concept of the modern constitutional tradition, yet it encounters serious difficulties when transposed into today’s globalized world. Its radical promise, connected with the “ability to make a new beginning,” sits uneasily with a social and political context that seems out of reach and impossible to “constitute.” Yet the idea of constituent power continues to animate people in their efforts to reclaim agency and self-government in a landscape shaped largely by others. This article traces key challenges to the continuing force of constituent power in the postnational order and argues that, because of adverse institutional and societal conditions, this order is better understood as post-constituent: ascribing its origin to a pouvoir constituant would, under any plausible conception, stretch the notion too far. If at all, the idea of constituent power survives on a normative plane, potentially feeding a pouvoir irritantof global institutions with a precarious, often technocratic legitimacy basis.