Constitution Talk with Arun K Thiruvengadam and Usha Ramanathan | 26 November, 2023
It's constitution month at Champaca and we are delighted to welcome you to a talk by Arun K Thiruvengadam, Professor of Law at the National Law School. He will be in conversation with Usha Ramanathan, who works on the jurisprudence of law, poverty and rights. This lecture is brought to you by Champaca Bookstore and NCBS Archives.
Ours is an era of war. To those who hold to the conventional view of constitutions, this is a state of affairs that induces great despair. This conventional view takes the stance that the history of the modern era is a linear progression from monarchical and feudal systems towards modes of constitutional democracy. Relying on recent historical and comparative work, I seek to complicate this somewhat rosy view of constitutions, and highlight how some of the earliest constitutions were in fact inextricably interlinked with militaries and military heroes. The rise of constitutions went hand in glove with the rise of empires across the 18th and 19th centuries, and constitutions were not always pacifist documents.
This is an important corrective but also provides us hope when we think of ways of understanding the ‘crisis of constitutionalism’ that we are living through. Across the world, the emergence and rapid rise of populist figures and forces across the last two decades seems to herald the end of the era of constitutions. But, if we are mindful of these historical insights, we will shed the romantic image of constitutions and see them for what they are: constructs of human imagination and effort that carry all the flaws and limitations that accompany human-made products. This analysis has implications for the future of the Indian version of constitutionalism, which we will explore together in the discussion following the initial presentation.