This paper addresses the constitutional entrenchment of foreign policy preferences, or “world views”, from the vantage point of International Relations theory. Empirically, norms that sketch out certain visions of global governance have become a popular feature of constitutional design. The paper expounds both their potential, as well as pitfalls to avoid, with a particular focus on Constructivist scholarship. In terms of their merits, they can serve as evidence of a “normative basis” for foreign policy and as parameters for legitimacy.
Furthermore, they represent both evidence of, and fuel for, processes of socialization in foreign policy. However, Constructivists tempted to draw on such constitutional worldviews should heed three main caveats. Firstly, while the constitution is supreme in the legal realm, it is only one of many possible expressions of normative preferences from a political science perspective. Secondly, they should avoid confusion between domestic constitutional standards and universal ones. Thirdly, they should be aware of the problematic of the “dead hand of the past”, i.e., while constitutional entrenchment may lend norms particular gravitas, it also makes them prone to become out-dated. By staying clear of these pitfalls, Constructivist theorists can embrace contemporary constitutions in their quest to elucidate which principles and ideas shape the international order and its maturing legal framework.
The paper proceeds as follows. Firstly, it provides an overview of the global trend in constitutional design towards “dynamic internationalization”. Subsequently, it assesses the likely import of this trend for IR theory through the respective lenses of its three classic main currents.
The main parts of the paper elaborate on the principal merits of such norms for Constructivists (normative basis, legitimacy and socialization), and then address the main pitfalls to be avoided in their utilization (legal hubris, parochialism and obsolescence). The paper concludes that by heeding these caveats, Constructivist IR theorists can embrace contemporary constitutions in their quest to elucidate the ideas, norms and principles that guide and govern the international order and its maturing legal framework.Download PDF