The Professor’s New Book Represents the Diversity of Global Legal and Political Systems


A new book edited by David S. Law, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, is designed to help scholars and students understand constitutional law around the world by conveying the full diversity of legal and political systems. of the world.

Constitutionalism in Contextpublished by Cambridge University Press, covers legal systems often overlooked by comparative constitutional law books, including systems in Asia, the Global South and the Muslim world.

Law was inspired to assemble a constitutional law book that better represented the world’s legal and political diversity after teaching at National Taiwan University and Seoul National University.

“One of the things that has become apparent is that the material that people usually use to teach comparative constitutional law doesn’t have much to say about Asia, even though it’s half the world’s population. said Law. “One of the purposes of this book is to expose people to the full diversity of constitutionalism around the world.”

He added that comparative constitutional law books typically focus on the same dozen countries, including Canada, South Africa, Israel, India and parts of Western Europe.

“When you cover these countries, you cover the usual topics like expression, freedom of religion, with a lot of emphasis on civil and political liberties,” he said. “You focus more specifically on liberal constitutional democracies with judicial oversight. Frankly, that doesn’t describe much of the world.

The professor noted that around a quarter of the world is Muslim, for example, leading some countries to experiment with Islamic versions of constitutional law.

Law, an expert on courts and constitutions around the world and a pioneer in applying empirical social science methods to the study of legal texts, is one of the most cited legal and social scientists in the States -United. His works have been translated into Japanese. , Chinese, Spanish and Romanian.

The new book is not shy about discussing jurisdictions that may be controversial.

“This book is keen to cover problematic jurisdictions like mainland China and Iran,” he added, “not because the book implies that we should copy them or that they are systems we should emulate – far from it. But on the contrary, it’s no use if we just don’t understand these systems. And so far, the field has essentially ignored these jurisdictions, even though they are extremely important.

Highlighting Taiwan and South Korea’s proximity to mainland China and North Korea, he noted, “We are [currently] not even giving students the tools to understand what is happening in neighboring countries that poses an existential threat to their own country.

Law highlighted several features offered by the book’s unique design, which combines the depth and rigor of a research textbook with educational resources, such as excerpts from primary material and an online supplement.

“The chapters are modular, meaning each chapter covers both a topic and a jurisdiction, then does a case study of the topic in the jurisdiction,” he said. “I think this is the first book to do that. And that means that instead of having a book organized by subject or by jurisdiction, it’s organized both ways at the same time.

Law noted that scientific analysis is particularly helpful since many countries have much shorter judicial opinions, unlike common law jurisdictions like the United States, where judges offer lengthy explanations of the law.

“In many countries, for example, countries with a civil law tradition, judicial notices are very short. And so if you want to understand what’s going on, you really need scholarly commentary. And in other countries, even some liberal democracies like the Netherlands or most of Scandinavia, there is no judicial review.

For the cover of his book, Law commissioned an original painting from an Islamabad-based artist who wishes to be credited as “Ibraheem S.” Law said the concept was to show a modern take on an 18th-century gathering in the style of Howard Chandler Christy’s iconic “Scene of the Signing of the United States Constitution” (1940). In his preface, Law notes: “By design, all but one of the original figures have been replaced with figures – some historical, some not – representing all of the jurisdictions covered by this book. The result is an Easter egg hunt for comparative constitutional law aficionados.


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