Difference Between Constitution and Constitutionalism (With Table)

The governance of a particular nation is regulated by fundamental principles and laws. The individuals have their rights, and so does the government. This goes good with the limitations too. The governing laws in democratic countries offer freedom as well as a restriction for the well being of the nation as well as its people. In this context, two different terms have always being confused; Constitution and Constitutionalism. Both are technically linked together. However, they are different from one another in a few crucial aspects.

Constitution vs Constitutionalism

The difference between Constitution and Constitutionalism is that the Constitution is created by the government, but the Government itself is controlled by Constitutionalism which sets the limitation to its powers and authorities. The latter is indeed the law that allows people and the government to follow the rules and principles set by the constitution.

A constitution, in general, is a document that is written which has the fundamental laws of the nation. A constitution sets the entire framework of how a government structure must be and also vividly discusses the functionality of every element. As such, the principles of society is set from the root level. It gives the exact norms and principles for the government to follow.

Constitutionalism, on the other hand, is the governance system by itself that controls and limits the powers of the government. This is the one that sets the freedom and limitations of every individual of the nation. It includes the government as well. A government must use its power under constitutionalism.

Comparison Table Between Constitution and Constitutionalism

Parameters of ComparisonConstitutionConstitutionalism
DefinitionFundamental Laws of the NationFundamental Principles to govern a country
Major EmphasisConstitution emphasizes ‘How’ to factors of the government.Constitutionalism emphasizes the Limitation of the government.
DoctrineRules and regulations to be followedLimitations to be adhered to by the government
FormatThe constitution is a written document.It is not necessary to have a document. It is not written too.
ExistenceThe constitution cannot exist without Constitutionalism.It can very well survive in a country without any written document in place.

What is Constitution?

A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or precedents of a particular entity that shall help in understanding how it is supposed to be governed. The constitution is a set of fundamental laws that the government, as well as any individual, shall follow. It offers a way to govern a country.

These fundamental laws or principles are written in a document, and that is why it is called the ‘Written Constitution’. It helps in demonstrating the social, political structure of a country. It also includes the legal entity of the nation. It is the primary and prime law of the country. It is usually sketched by the government, and in recent years, many nations have altered their constitution, which is uncommon but needed.

In specific terms, Constitution is referred to defined as

  1. Basic Law of the Nation
  2. A system that integrates and collaborates the organization and individual norms
  3. Government Organisation

It is a structure that the government must follow, and so do the common man. The foundation of the government is set by the constitution. The collective rights and freedom of individuals are offered by the constitution, and everyone must follow the law.

What is Constitutionalism?

Constitutionalism is the governing law that helps regulate the functionality of the government. As such, constitutionalism sets the standards of actions for the government. It indeed sets limitations to the government. Constitutionalism defines the action of a government as legitimate or not.

No government shall work beyond the principles of constitutionalism and, if it does so, is considered invalid. One needs to understand that having the constitution does not guarantee to set constitutionalism. It is the other way around.

A nation must have the governing laws for the government to have the constitution set. Also, the countries that have a constitution and not have constitutionalism makes it vulnerable as the rules can be broken at any time.

Basic Features of Constitutionalism are given below

  1. Popular Sovereignty
  2. Separation of Powers
  3. Responsible and Accountable Government
  4. Rule of Law
  5. An independent judiciary
  6. Respect for individual rights
  7. Respect for self-determination
  8. Civilian control of the military
  9. Police governed by law and judicial control

As such, the concept of constitutionalism help restores peace in the nation. Imagine, without that, the government can act on their own without any governing authority to question them. Even questioned, there is no law to say that the action was wrong. This is widely avoided in the nations that have strong constitutionalism that puts limitations on the government, and the same shall be adhered to by any government that is formed.

Main Differences Between Constitution and Constitutionalism

  1. The main difference between Constitution and Constitutionalism is that the constitution is a written document while constitutionalism is not.
  2. The constitution is the supreme law of the country, while constitutionalism is the one that allows it to function legitimately.
  3. Constitutional amendments can be changed by the Government, while constitutionalism cannot be changed.
  4. The non-existence of a constitution can still have the company thrive, while the non-existence of constitutionalism shall ruin the country as there is no governing law for the government in power.
  5. Constitution is the rules and regulation set for the structure of the government and society, while constitutionalism sets the limitation to the government itself.

Conclusion

Both cannot survive without one another. The popular engagement of many nations is to set the constitution right. However, without constitutionalism in place, even the best of the rules set can be changed in a second. Take, for example, Germany had its constitution, but without the governing limitation, it did not work well at all. For a constitutional amendment to be changed, people in the nation must vote. But In the case of constitutionalism, there is no such activity at all. As such, the changes are very subtle in the latter’s case.

References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/icon/article/8/4/950/667092?login=true
  2. https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/tlr87&div=59&id=&page=
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