“When and why does one institution yield to another? This question is central to the effective functioning of any system based on a separation of powers.” Professor Carolan (University College Dublin) is the founding Director of the Centre for Constitutional Studies.
When and why does one institution yield to another? This question is central to the effective functioning of any system based on a separation of powers.
With limited exceptions, it has, however, remained a relatively under-explored aspect of the constitutional literature on the separation of powers. This reflects, in part, the dominance of technical or formalist techniques in constitutional thinking about institutional power: a constitution-as-law approach that equates the conferral of legal power with the authority to exercise it. This makes it possible for a gap to emerge between legal accounts of authority and its diverse – and potentially conflicting – sociological foundations. Where that gap exists, the practical authority of an institution (or constitution) may be vulnerable to challenge from rival and more socially-resonant claims.
This highlights the necessity for a sociological (re)turn in separation of powers scholarship that recognises the context-sensitive character of institutional power. This presentation will consider the value and potential of an approach that aims to identify and integrate the legal, social and psychological dimensions of institutional power in a particular system.
Eoin Carolan is a Full Professor at University College Dublin where he is founding Director of the Centre for Constitutional Studies. He is the current holder of a European Research Council Consolidator Grant for a project investigating the foundations of institutional authority in separation of powers systems.
He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including “The Right to Privacy: A Doctrinal and Comparative Analysis” (Round Hall, 2008), “The Irish Constitution: Governance and Values” (eds) (Round Hall, 2008), “The New Separation of Powers: A Theory for the Modern State” (Oxford University Press, 2009), “The Irish Constitution: Perspectives and Prospects (Bloomsbury, 2012), “Judicial Power in Ireland” (ed), (IPA, 2018) and “Media Law in Ireland” (Bloomsbury, 2019). He was awarded the 2011 Kevin Boyle Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship for “The New Separation of Powers: A Theory for the Modern State”. The book was also shortlisted for the 2010 Peter Birks Prize.