Constitution vs Constitutionalism: Difference and Comparison

Fundamental principles and laws regulate the governance of a particular nation. The individuals have their rights, and so does the government. This goes well with the limitations too.

The governing laws in democratic countries offer freedom and a restriction for the well-being of the nation and its people. In this context, two different terms have always been confused; Constitution and Constitutionalism.

Both are technically linked together. However, they are different from one another in a few crucial aspects.

Key Takeaways

  1. A constitution is a written document that outlines a government’s fundamental principles and laws, while constitutionalism is the belief in the importance of following those principles and laws.
  2. Constitutions are created during political upheaval or transition, while constitutionalism is an ongoing process of adhering to the principles outlined in the constitution.
  3. Constitutions can vary widely in their content and structure, but constitutionalism is a universal concept emphasizing the rule of law and the importance of protecting individual rights.

Constitution vs Constitutionalism

The difference between Constitution and Constitutionalism is that the government creates the Constitution, but the Government itself is controlled by Constitutionalism, which limits 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.

Constitution vs Constitutionalism

A constitution, in general, is a written document with the nation’s fundamental laws. A constitution sets the entire framework of how a government structure must be and vividly discusses every element’s functionality.

As such, the principles of society are 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 in the nation.

It includes the government as well. A government must use its power under constitutionalism.

Comparison Table

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.

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The constitution is a set of fundamental laws that the government and 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 to demonstrate the social and political structure of a country.

It also includes the legal entity of the nation. It is the primary and prime law of the country. The government sketches it, 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 constitution sets the foundation of the government. The constitution offers individuals the collective rights and freedom, 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 action for the government. It indeed sets limitations on 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 governing laws for the government to have the constitution set. Also, the countries that have a constitution and do not have constitutionalism make it vulnerable, as the rules can be broken at any time.

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The 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. Without that, the government can act independently without any governing authority to question them.

Even if questioned, there is no law to say that the action was wrong. This is widely avoided in 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 written 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. The Government can change constitutional amendments, 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 regulations set for the structure of the government and society, while constitutionalism sets the limitation to the government itself.
Difference Between Constitution and Constitutionalism

Last Updated : 14 October, 2023

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