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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe AmericasConstitutionalism and the American Imperial Imagination

Constitutionalism and the American Imperial Imagination

Authors: Asli Bali and Aziz Rana

Affiliation: UCLA Law School (Bali), Cornell Law School (Rana)

Organization/Publisher: The University of Chicago Law Review

Date/Place: March 2018, Chicago

Type of Literature: Journal Article

Number of Pages: 36 


Keywords: American Imperialism, Cold-War, Constitutionalism, Foreign Policy, International Relations, Geopolitics.


The authors argue that constitutionalism and liberal democratization are the definitive language of American international police power and primacy. The argument is based on a selective reading of key moments in the post-WWII history of American foreign policy. The authors argue that since America’s entry into empire building, America had established its leadership based on a mirror image of itself in the form of multilateral international organizations. These organizations and a rule-based order were for the purpose of protecting American capital and power over and against European power. But this system slowly began breaking down since the departure of the Soviet Union from the world scene. America entered into a period of unilateralism, i.e. a presumptive right of continuous and forceful intervention, and eventually American exceptionalism. The argument has a direct impact on how we interpret the “fourth wave of democratization” in Muslim majority countries. Examples abound in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya—where calls for a robust constitutionalism with Madisonian balance of power between stakeholders become a ground for extending American power and legitimacy instead of challenging it. The overall observation put forward by the authors is that since America moved towards more and more unilateralism, there is a blatant crisis in American international legitimacy. The breakdown of liberal constitutionalism is both a sign of waning American power domestically and abroad. This opens the field for third-world elites to absolve themselves of any commitment to America’s coercive “rule-based” order. The implication of the argument presented here is that Muslim political actors arguing for further constitutionalism and democracy in their respective countries are nothing less than an attempt to use American power in their favor. With the Americans abandoning the language of multilateralism and international law, these actors are wielding an obsolete discourse with no international patrons.

By: M. Üveys Han, CIGA Senior Research Associate




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