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The Three Branches: A Comparative Model of Separation of Powers (Anglais) Relié – 14 mars 2013

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Présentation de l'éditeur

The idea of the separation of powers is still popular in much political and constitutional discourse, though its meaning for the modern state remains unclear and contested. This book develops a new, comprehensive, and systematic account of the principle. It then applies this new concept to legal problems of different national constitutional orders, the law of the European Union, and international institutional law. It connects an argument from normative political theory with phenomena taken from comparative constitutional law. The book argues that the conflict between individual liberty and democratic self-determination that is characteristic of modern constitutionalism is proceduralized through the establishment of different governmental branches. A close analysis of the relation between individual and collective autonomy on the one hand and the ways lawmaking through public institutions can be established on the other hand helps us identify criteria for determining how legislative, administrative, and judicial lawmaking can be distinguished and should be organized. These criteria define a common ground in the confusing variety of western constitutional traditions and their diverse use of the notion of separated powers. They also enable us to establish a normative framework that throws a fresh perspective on problems of constitutional law in different constitutional systems: constitutional judicial review of legislation, limits of legislative delegation, parliamentary control of the executive, and standing. Linking arguments from comparative constitutional law and international law, the book then uses this framework to offer a new perspective on the debate on constitutionalism beyond the state. The concept permits certain institutional insights of the constitutional experiences within states to be applied at the international level without falling into any form of methodological nationalism.

Biographie de l'auteur

Christoph Möllers, Professor of Law at Humboldt-University and Permanent Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, studied Law, Philosophy, and Comparative Literature at the Universities of Tübingen, Madrid, and Munich. He holds a Dr. iur. from the University of Munich and a Master of Law of the University of Chicago Law School. He was a Fellow at NYU School of Law and a Visiting Professor at Central European University Budapest and Université Paris II, Panthéon-Assas.

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Amazon.com: 1 commentaire
Important contribution to democratic theory 2 octobre 2015
Par A. J. Sutter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This is a dense and stimulating book about constitutional theory, written from a comparative point of view. Discussing not only national contexts but also the EU and general public international law arenas, it’s a rare examination of the meaning and purpose of splitting the powers of government among legislative, executive, and judiciary branches. The author (CM) is a leading German constitutional scholar who spent time studying and teaching in the US; this is an original work in quite clear English that elaborates on a couple of earlier works he had published in German. Even though most of the examples relate to a European or North American context, I found a lot to inform my thinking about the constitutional situation in Japan, where I live and teach.

Despite the “checks and balances” narrative most Americans learn in school, that’s only one possible form for the separation of powers. As CM shows in Chap. 1, France, England, the US and Germany each exemplify a different style of separation. The theme that underlies them all is the tension between individual and democratic (collective) self-determination. Only a system that facilitates and guarantees both, says CM, can enjoy legitimacy. The judiciary tends mostly to protect individual freedom (since its main function is to consider cases involving individuals), a properly-functioning legislature exemplifies democratic freedom, and the task of the executive is to link the two. For CM the true rationale for the separation of powers “is not the repression and facilitation of political power, but rather the organization of a model of law-making in which individual and democratic matters of self-determination gain equal recognition” (@109).

The discussion of legitimacy is approached from a general and philosophical perspective in Chap. 2, then applied in Chap. 3 to certain national-scale issues (including the regulation of administrative bureaucracy, dubbed by some other writers as the “fourth branch”), and then in Chap. 4 to the specific institutions of the EU, to issues of federalism generally, and also to public international law regimes such as the UN and WTO. A final chapter offers a brief and sometimes withering assessment of some other concepts, such as “governance,” that are floating around in the modern discourse about separation of powers.

Note that the book focuses on systems that are considered to be democracies: it doesn’t discuss states such as China, the Soviet Union, most modern Middle Eastern states or military governments in Asia, even though most of those countries have constitutions that pay at least lip service to a three-branch structure; and despite the cover, Brazil is mentioned only once, in passing. Some of CM’s arguments, such as his concern about the democratic deficit when a dedicated constitutional court is very active in protecting the basic rights of individuals (@134-139), seemed shaped in response to the German situation — on the contrary, I think such a court might be a very welcome thing to have in Japan, for example. But CM emphasizes that he’s not proposing a “one-size-fits-all model” (@139), so the occasional German spin doesn’t reduce the usefulness of the book as a source of ideas for readers elsewhere.

As mentioned above, CM’s argument is extremely dense, and I think impossible for most readers (myself included) to fully absorb on a first pass. While his writing style uses little jargon and usually avoids twisted syntax, it consists mostly of declarations made with confident certitude, one after another after another, without solicitous pauses for the reader who may have fallen off the pace — something like the first time I tried cross-country skiing, with a friend’s family who’d each been practicing the sport since childhood. Chapter 2, the most abstractly philosophical, was especially difficult for me to focus on, but it started to make more sense when I went back to it after having read the rest of the book.

The book has a bibliography as well as true footnotes, not endnotes. (Though the tone of these usually matches the serious tone of the main text, I did enjoy one footnote's reference to "the continuously imprecise" 'State of Exception' by G. Agamben.) That it’s already two years since the book’s original publication without a single Amazon review nor, to the best of my knowledge, any comment in a US law journal or law prof blog is a testimony to the parochial mentality of the US legal academy, which is given to churning out books about “liberal democracies” (plural) based entirely on the jurisprudence of the US Supreme Court. I believe this book’s ideas and arguments are important, and deserve to be widely read and discussed. Suffice it to say: I’ve got books in almost every significant area of my home and office, but I’ve made a slot for this one on a shelf within arm’s reach of my desk.
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