A defense of non-representational constitutionalism: Why constitutions need not be representational

Alon Harel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The standard opinion is that the force of the constitution hinges on the fact that it is willingly endorsed by the people or, at least representative of the people. This Article challenges this view. More specifically, I differentiate between two types of legitimation: representational legitimation and non-representational or reason-based legitimation. While representational legitimation rests on the fact that the constitution is representative of who the people are or what they want, reason-based constitutions are based on the judgement that the constitution is just or, at least grounded in reason. I also show that some of the puzzles in constitutional theory can be resolved by acknowledging the significance of the latter type of legitimation. For instance, I illustrate that constitutions that were not adopted freely by the nations and could not have been characterized as representative of the people such as the German Constitution can still be legitimate. To put it provocatively: the legitimation of a constitution need not rest on the conviction that it represents the people whom it governs; it may simply rest on the belief that it is a good or just constitution. Representational legitimacy is only one form of legitimacy but not the only one.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)181-197
Number of pages17
JournalLaw and Ethics of Human Rights
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston 2020.


  • comparative constitutional law
  • constitutional theory
  • legitimation
  • reason-based legitimacy
  • representation
  • representational legitimacy


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