Constitutions, law and judges - Constitutions - Classifying constitutions

6 important questions on Constitutions, law and judges - Constitutions - Classifying constitutions

What are the four ways that constitutions can be classified?

- Written/unwritten (codified/uncodified): form of the constitution and status of its rules.
- Rigid/flexible: how easily can the constitution be changed.
- Effective/nominal/or facade constitution: the degree to which the constitution is observed in practice.
- Monarchical/republican or federal/unitary or presidential/parliamentary: The content of the constitution and the institutional structure that it establishes.

What is the difference between written and unwritten constitutions?

Written: constitutions enshrined in laws.
Unwritten: embodied in custom and tradition.

But every constitution is a blend of written and unwritten rules.

What is an uncodified constitution?

Draws on a variety of sources - statute law, common law, conventions etc (e.g. UK; uncodified but partly written constitution).
The absence of a codified document means that the legislature enjoys sovereign and unchallengeable authority.

--> concentration of power in the hands of the executive .

How easily does the constitutions adapt to changing circumstances?

Codified constitutions are likely to be relatively inflexible because their provisions are in some way entrenched in higher law.

In the US the constitution seems rigid. Although the words of the US constitution and other codified documents may change little, their meanings are subject to constant revision and updating through the process of judicial interpretation and reinterpretation.
In the UK it seems flexible, but some conventions are so deeply engrained in the political culture and in popular expectations.

What is an effective constitution? (2x criteria)

An effective constitution requires the existence of constitutional rules, but also the capacity of those rules to constrain government and establish constitutionalism.

All constitutions are violated to a greater or lesser extent. The issue is how often it happens and the significance.

> Nominal constitution: their texts have the rules but it fails to limit governmental power.    
> Facade constitutions: only fulfil a propaganda role.

What are the differences in structures of constitutions?

Monarchical vs republican:
Monarchical: constitutional supremacy in a dynastic ruler.
Republican: political authority is derived from the people.

Unitary vs federal:
Unitary: concentrate sovereignty in a single national body.
Federal: divide sovereignty between two levels of government.   

Parliamentary vs presidential:
Parliamentary: executive derived from and accountable to the assembly.
Presidential: the two branches of government function independently on the basis of the separation of powers.

Pluralist vs monopolistic:
Pluralist: liberal democracy, ensuring that political power is dispersed (through guarantees of participatory rights and party competition.
Monopolistic: communist or authoritarian states, with unquestionable authority.

The question on the page originate from the summary of the following study material:

  • A unique study and practice tool
  • Never study anything twice again
  • Get the grades you hope for
  • 100% sure, 100% understanding
Remember faster, study better. Scientifically proven.
Trustpilot Logo
  • Higher grades + faster learning
  • Never study anything twice
  • 100% sure, 100% understanding
Discover Study Smart