Abuse of the Constitution as a Means of Political Change: Sociological Reflections on the Crisis of Constitutionalism in Poland
 
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Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland
Publication date: 2019-12-12
 
Polish Sociological Review 2019;208(4):421–438
 
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ABSTRACT
This article aims to analyze abuse of a country’s constitution as a unique means by which fundamental changes can be introduced to the country’s political system. The term “abusive constitutionalism” is used to discuss the shift of the political system toward decreased democracy by means of changes to the constitution, as in the case of Hungary. In contemporary Poland, abuse of the constitution has entailed the creation of a parallel system via ordinary legislation passed rapidly by a simple parliamentary majority. The thesis of this paper is that “abusive constitutionalism” and an “abused constitutionalism” stem from a crisis in liberal democratic constitutionalism as a motivating force and moral signpost in the public sphere. In the place of democratic constitutionalism, there has been a return to emotion-laden conceptualizations of the political community. Primordial bonds, unquestioned traditional values, and founding myths are perceived as more meaningful than the law and the constitution. This sort of return to the past has its historical validation, but it is also a reaction to the growing complexities of the contemporary world and its risks. Another important empirical context for abusive constitutionalism is the negative constitutional consensus of a passive electorate. One indicator of a negative constitutional consensus is the population’s lack of interest in the democratic functioning of the public sphere.
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