Article Title

Constitutional Mobilization

Publication Title

Washington University Global Studies Law Review


People around the world are mobilizing for constitutional change. This global phenomenon has been underexplored in comparative constitutional studies. This Article introduces the concept of constitutional mobilization, theorizes about it, and offers an original, empirical case-study.

First, it develops a general theoretical framework defined by the following key concepts. Constitutional mobilization is the process by which social actors employ constitutional norms and discourses to advocate for constitutional change. Constitutional opportunity refers to the general political and constitutional environment in which constitutional mobilization operates, and particular political and constitutional processes that provoke constitutional mobilization. Constitutional framing concerns identifying constitutional problems and proposing constitutional solutions, the process of which involves invocation of constitutional language, ideas, norms, or symbols presented in national constitutions, transnational constitutional law, and international law. Constitutional resources take the form of state actors who play the influential role in constitutional change.

And finally, constitutional change is understood as a multiple concept, which includes three types of change, namely revolutionary, reformative, and cultural.

Second, this article develops a contextual theory to answer this question: under what conditions, how and why do social actors mobilize for constitutional change in authoritarian regime? The theory holds that, in an authoritarian regime, social actors seize the opportunity presented by constitution-making process to mobilize the public and also political leaders to engage in a popular, national constitutional dialogue, which results in reformative and cultural constitutional changes.

Third, on that theoretical ground, this Article offers a case-study of Vietnam. This case-study has implications for China, which, like Vietnam, is also governed by a communist regime. However, as this article will demonstrate, China also presents significant constitutional divergences from Vietnam. More generally, this Article proposes establishing constitutional mobilization as a new area of empirical comparative constitutional inquiry based on case-studies exploration and contextual theorization.