Research


Current Project

1. Research Project CoPolis
Constitutional Politics in Post-Westphalian Europe

University of Trento/Provincia Autonoma di Trento

Project website


The current research project “Constitutional Politics in Post-Westphalian Europe“ (CoPolis) (a three-year project with four team members), which I coordinate at the Sociology Department of the University of Trento, consists of an interdisciplinary investigation into the changing contours of the constitutional-democratic state. The focus is in particular on constitutional reform projects as well as - and here lies its main innovative character - shifting forms of meaning-giving to the role of constitutions in European democracies, as articulated by a variety of relevant actors (politicians, judges, pro-democracy movements). The assumption is that the modern European state is increasingly the subject of not only normal political critique and contestation, but of contestation in constitutional terms (a clear example is the case of 'grassroots constitutionalism' in Iceland, but also in other cases such as Italy as well as on the European level constitutional claims are being articulated by (transnational) social movements). The questioning of the modern constitutional state – i.e. a unit that joins territory, jurisdiction, and citizenry - has set in a few decades ago, and in some cases this process is now accelerating due to the recent global economic crisis. Key assumptions of modern constitutionalism are currently being questioned: the state as ultimate constitutional arbiter; the nation-state as the ‘natural’ territorial unit for governance; the constitutional order as a closed legal and expert system.


Concluded Projects

2. Project - The Crisis of Constitutionalism in the New Democracies
University of Trento/Provincia Autonoma di Trento Project

Outline


The current research project “Constitutional Politics in Post-Westphalian Europe“ (CoPolis) (a three-year project with four team members), which I coordinate at the Sociology Department of the University of Trento, consists of an interdisciplinary investigation into the changing contours of the constitutional-democratic state. The focus is in particular on constitutional reform projects as well as - and here lies its main innovative character - shifting forms of meaning-giving to the role of constitutions in European democracies, as articulated by a variety of relevant actors (politicians, judges, pro-democracy movements). The assumption is that the modern European state is increasingly the subject of not only normal political critique and contestation, but of contestation in constitutional terms (a clear example is the case of 'grassroots constitutionalism' in Iceland, but also in other cases such as Italy as well as on the European level constitutional claims are being articulated by (transnational) social movements). The CoPolis project comparatively investigates distinct trajectories of, and justifications for, constitutional change, and, more importantly, different forms of constitutional politics and contestation in a number of European countries (Hungary, Iceland, Italy, the United Kingdom). Constitutional politics and contestation are engaged in by a variety of actors, some of whom make innovative proposals for pluralistic, participatory, or even cosmopolitan, constitutional orders. While there is a good amount of scholarly attention for EU constitutionalization and the Europeanization of domestic orders, there is a glaring absence of systematic and comparative reflections on, and analyses of, the way in which modern constitutionalism as an political narrative is being contested by a variety of actors as well as the object of proposals for (radical) change. What is more, no systematic work has been done on potential shifts in the understanding of constitutionalism or the emergence of innovative views. The CoPolis project fills the gap by comparatively analyzing constitutional politics and shifting perceptions regarding constitutionalism in Europe, by focussing on a small but significant number of case-studies. It is ground-breaking in that it extensively analyses shifts in views of constitutionalism among key political, legal, and social actors, through a comparative, political-sociological lens (in methodological terms drawing on Q-methodology). The project develops a cutting-edge political-sociological approach to constitutional pluralism on the basis of the assumption that pressures for, and trajectories of, constitutional change will become particularly visible in ruptures and conflict in constitutional repertoires. The novelty lies in particular in, first, the project’s focus on constitutional discourses, claims and critique in social, political, and legal realities (rather than on theoretical speculation), and, second, in its focus on both (political and legal) elites and social movements. The project comparatively analyses the articulation of a plurality of normative discourses on constitutionalism and related forms of critique on the constitutional status quo, in this providing a cutting-edge study of constitutional and legal pluralism as manifested in discursive practice. The project captures, in this, two of the main features of a so-called ‘post-Westphalian’ order: constitutional/legal pluralism and normative pluralism.


3. Marie Curie Project
Varieties of Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe


Outline


In the project ‘Varieties of Democracy in the New Member States’ (VARDEM), funded by a Marie Curie Intra-European grant (2007-2008), I developed an original and critical contribution to the debate on democracy in a unified Europe, in general, and in the new member states, in particular. The project consisted in the development of a political-/cultural-sociological approach to the analysis of political culture, as well as the application of this approach in a comparative project studying three new democracies. The main focus was on constitutional/legal institutions and elite discourses of democratization and Europeanization. The latter were studied thorugh primary interviews with MEPs and extensive study of documents and texts. The project led to the publication of a monograph (2010, Routledge). Besides the publication of a monograph with Routledge, the project has led to various articles in international, peer-reviewed journals, as well as in a open-access journal, Lo Squaderno.