Moving beyond doctrinal analysis of constitutional texts, and beyond constitutional theory which tends towards normative ideals, the project, led by Denis Galligan, examines the role that constitutions play in the social, economic, and political order; the historical formation and development of key constitutional concepts; the place of the people within western constitutions, emphasizing the meanings and understandings that people attribute to constitutional issues, and the notion of constitutional success and failure.
Since the American and French revolutions, written constitutions have become, with a few exceptions, a standard feature of contemporary societies, prescribing both the system of government and the relations between citizens and the government.
Constitutions take various forms in different societies, but essentially determine how policy issues, often of fundamental social importance, are to be decided and implemented. A constitution can become the very symbol of a society, as in the United States; or it can be a major social issue over which opinions differ sharply, as in the European Union. It can be a rallying point for reform, even revolution; or an instrument for political ends.
This approach taken by this project assumes the importance of historical factors and the concerns of the time in shaping constitutions and constitutional thought. Drawing on the research and literature of politics, economics, and sociology, the project examines the concept and practice of representation, the legislative process and the character of modern administrative government, and the role of the judiciary in shaping constitutional instruments such as bills of rights.