Research Gary Jacobsohn


My current research focuses on the question of constitutional change in comparative perspective. In line with this interest, I have been exploring the concept of constitutional identity, about which constitutional theorists have had relatively little to say. My most recent book addresses this inattention with a philosophical and comparative exploration of the idea. Thus there are attributes of a constitution that allow one to identify it as such, and there is a dialogical process of identity formation that enables one to determine the specific identity of any given constitution.

Representing a mix of aspirations and commitments expressive of a nation's past, constitutional identity also evolves in ongoing political and interpretive activities occurring in courts, legislatures, and other public and private domains. At the core of the approach I have developed is the phenomenon of constitutional disharmony - the tensions within a constitutional order and those that exist between a constitutional document and the society it seeks to regulate. The inquiry into identity's conceptual possibilities features several constitutional settings - India, Ireland, Israel, and the United States - that highlight its distinctive characteristics.

The effort to illuminate the nature of constitutional identity has moved to a related research focus involving the concept of the “constitutional revolution.” It is a term that has been generally applied to such far-flung places as South Africa, Eastern Europe, Great Britain, India, Turkey, Canada, Israel, and the United States. My work seeks to make sense of this much-vexed concept, and in so doing I challenge the prevailing theoretical assumptions about constitutional change engrained in its frequent invocation.