A constitution reflects fundamental precedents or principles that govern an organization or a state. A constitute is made up of the rules that are gathered together, mainly written down although there are some cases of unwritten constitutions (Shigong 5). Written constitution is a legal document mostly referred to as a codified constitution or an enacted constitution. This paper supports written and unwritten constitutions as both influential in supporting liberal democracies.

Written constitution is found in legal documents enacted to form laws, it has been noted that a written constitution is systematic, precise and definite (Shigong 9). A written constitution is a product of deliberate and conscious efforts of particular people, who are referred to as the representative body elected by the community at a specified timeframe. A written constitution is promulgated to a particular historic date.

Constitution of the United States is an example of a written constitution with seven articles and twenty seven amendments; it is also the shortest written constitution in the world (Rakove 87), while the Constitution of India is the largest with four hundred and forty four articles dating back to 26th January, 1950. Written constitution is rigid in nature, with procedures enacted by the ordinary law, that at times offers revisions and amendments (Shigong 27). There are differences between ordinary law and constitutional law, where constitutional law is superior as compared to the ordinary law.

Unwritten constitution contains government principles which are not enacted in the formation of laws. Unwritten constitution is characterized with traditions, customs, convections and diverse written laws with different timelines (Shigong 43). It has been noted that unwritten constitution is un-precise, unsystematic and indefinite; the result of unwritten constitution was not formed in deliberate and conscious efforts of people, it is propelled by historical and religious developments (Hashemi 113).

Unwritten constitution is not part of representative constituent assembly; therefore it has no definite historical stage or date since it was never promulgated. Unwritten constitution in most cases refers to cumulative constitution or evolved constitution (Shigong 24). An example of unwritten constitution is that of England in the United Kingdom, where historical growth has shaped the unwritten constitution. Examples of written law in the England’s unwritten constitution identify with Bill of Rights 1689 and Parliamentary Act 1911 among others.

Liberal democracy tradition is characterized with a form of government in which liberalism propels the representative democracy; this is mainly in protecting individuals and the minority groups in the society; where free, fair and competitive elections are carried out in an open society (Cunningham 49). Liberal democracy ensures civil rights, human rights; political freedoms and civil liberties are respected. Liberal democratic tradition can function from both a written constitution or from an unwritten constitution depending on context. It has been noted that liberal democratic tradition may take diverse constitutional forms; examples of constitutional republic are India, Italy and United States. It may also take a form of constitutional monarchy examples being United Kingdom, Netherlands and Japan; it may also take a presidential system examples being United States and Mexico; it may also take a semi-presidential system like Taiwan and France or take a parliamentary system examples being United Kingdom, Australia and India.

Written constitution and unwritten constitution overlap at some instances, since even the written constitution has some elements of unwritten element, and also the unwritten constitution has some elements of written element (Bell 99).  Economic and social life of citizens are dynamic, an indication that both constitutions have to keep on changing with time. A constitution is important to a state as it acts as a reference point in areas relating to law, hence averting misunderstandings (Shigong 37).

Work Cited

Annotated Bibliography

Bell, Daniel A. Beyond Liberal Democracy: Political Thinking for an East Asian Context. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2006.

Bell supported that liberal democracy is supported by both written constitution and unwritten constitution. It was argued that there is no constitution that is wholly unwritten or wholly written; the two interrelate and share some aspects. Bell reflected on East Asia in the light of liberal democracy as classified in democracy, human rights and on capitalism. Majority of East Asia populations supports non-liberal values and practices.

Cunningham, Frank. The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Cunningham asserted that liberal democracies in many instances accepted the attributes of capitalistic societies, which argues that market has an influence on the way human beings act, which in return shapes the form of society. Cunningham went ahead indicating that liberal democracies are no longer powerful in the modern societies; and that written and unwritten constitution has no effect on the forms of liberal democracy.

Hashemi, Nader. Islam, Secularism, and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Hashemi argued that Islam and liberal democracy has generated diverse contentious and pressing issues. Hashemi argued in the lines of religious politics, social scientists and on development of liberal democratic systems. Hashemi argued that the form of constitution does not influence the liberal democracies and that societies are organized differently depending on jurisdictions. Religion plays a critical role in the organization of societies.

Rakove, Jack N. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. New York: Vintage, 2007.

Rakove reflected on the meaning of the United States constitution at different times to diverse populations. The constitution of the United States is an example of a written constitution, which is a perfect example supporting liberal democracy.  A constitution is complex and is subject to ratification depending on the jurisdiction, it may have a different meaning depending different contexts and time.

Shigong, Jiang. “Written and Unwritten Constitutions.” Modern China (2010): 5-46.

Shigong argued that a constitution whether written or unwritten is vital in the functioning of a society. In the same way, liberal democracies can operate from either the constitution depending on the arguments of the people and authorities involved in the processes. It is vital for the societies to have a bigger picture on the relevance of the constitution, and it applicability in the modern society.


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