Constitutional Identity as an Essentially Contested Concept

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research project stems from a single puzzle: Is constitutional identity an essentially contested concept? Adopting W.B Gallie's work on essentially contested concepts and applying four conditions that Gallie labelled as the most necessary conditions for a concept to possess an essentially contested nature, the thesis establishes the contested nature of constitutional identity by analysing constitutional cases, constitutional preambles and doctrine.

The thesis is composed of two parts. The first part provides the background. It first presents a literature review of constitutional identity, indicating that the existing literature cannot offer a satisfactory account of constitutional identity and second introduce the idea of essentially contested concepts that clarify the nature of the concept. The second part implements the four conditions that a concept must possess to be counted as essentially contested on constitutional identity. It draws from the four conditions, normativity, internal complexity, various describability and openness, to explore normative sources, the structure and the dynamic of constitutional identity and designates constitutional identity as an essentially contested concept.

The thesis argues that understanding constitutional identity as an essentially contested concept is descriptively accurate and analytically useful. The designation explains theoretical and practical disagreements on the concept and paves the way for recognising rival conceptions as inevitable, logically viable and having crucial lasting worth. The contestation between competing conceptions develops and expands the awareness of the value region that the concept delineates. By arguing the normative value of having an identity for a constitutional polity, universal and particular dimensions of constitutional identity and the dynamic nature driven by past-future tension, the thesis asserts that constitutional identity is a valuable concept that reflects the very heart of the constitutional phenomenon.

Date of Award1 Sept 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorLorenzo Zucca (Supervisor) & Christoph Kletzer (Supervisor)

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