- Tapa blanda: 152 páginas
- Editor: OUP Oxford (25 de abril de 2013)
- Colección: Very Short Introductions
- Idioma: Inglés
- ISBN-10: 0199697698
- ISBN-13: 978-0199697694
- Valoración media de los clientes: Sé el primero en opinar sobre este producto
- Clasificación en los más vendidos de Amazon: nº141.829 en Libros en idiomas extranjeros (Ver el Top 100 en Libros en idiomas extranjeros)
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The British Constitution: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Inglés) Tapa blanda – 25 abr 2013
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Descripción del producto
Oxford has managed to get one of the most sophisticated British scholars of modern public law to produce a brief and readable account. (London Review of Books)
Reseña del editor
The British constitution is regarded as unique among the constitutions of the world. What are the main characteristics of Britain's peculiar constitutional arrangements? How has the British constitution altered in response to the changing nature of its state - from England, to Britain, to the United Kingdom? What impact has the UK's developing relations with the European Union caused?
These are some of the questions that Martin Loughlin addresses in this Very Short Introduction. As a constitution, it is one that has grown organically in response to changes in the economic, political, and social environment, and which is not contained in a single authoritative text.
By considering the nature and authority of the current British constitution, and placing it in the context of others, Loughlin considers how the traditional idea of a constitution came to be retained, what problems have been generated as a result of adapting a traditional approach in a modern political world, looking at what the future prospects for the British constitution are.
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As Americans we understand the US Constitution as a single document and an amalgam of how the Government works and what they can do and the rights that we as citizens have in such an environment. In a sense the US Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, was and is a clear written statement of how far the Government can go, and no farther. The problem, of course, is that it is often open to interpretation. In contrast the British Constitution is much more of an amalgam of written as well as unstated rights and responsibilities going back to the Magna Carta of 1215. It is built upon the tri-partite English relationships amongst the Crown, the Aristocracy, and the commoners. Each of these players has a role in this British Constitution. This is in stark contrast to the US Constitution wherein there is no room for any differences amongst the citizenry, the "three-fifths" rule notwithstanding. To understand the British Constitution one must understand and accept the class structure of the English society. To understand the American culture one must also accept the alleged classless structure.
Loughlin's book is a small but significant contribution to this area of legal thought. It is especially important now because Britain is going through massive changes with the devolution or separation of its parts; Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland may very well find itself a separate country and if so one wonders what part of this Constitution it takes.
Loughlin presents the British Constitution through several Chapters. The overall challenge is that there is no document that one can point to as such a Constitution. Thus he takes this challenge and tries to make the best of it.
In Chapter 1 he spends time discussion what a Constitution is. In my view the best remark is that by Paine, which clearly defines a constitution as a written document containing principles. Paine was a contretemps to Burke, and Paine knew all too well what went into the American Constitution and also the coming chaos of the French process, post the Revolution. Burke was a traditionalist, one who could say, "...we all know what we mean by ..." whereas Paine wanted clarity of definition.
In Chapter 2 he discusses writing a Constitution. As with the previous Chapter there is a substantial challenge, and he meets that in the very first part of the Chapter. Namely he states (p 23):
"...the British have always been reluctant to commits its basic rules to writing ... the types of knowledge it embodies cannot easily be expressed in books or conveyed through formal instruction..."
Then he states that it is conducted via rules of procedure rather than principle. That is the challenge of such an idea. On the other hand one may argue that the US Constitution is also at the other extreme. For example the right to bear arms means what in a 21st century, the same as it did in the eighteenth. Also the US has no express right of privacy and yet it was evoked solely for the "right" to have an abortion. One may have a delimited right of privacy but when it comes to Government monitoring and intrusion of electronic media the right somehow disappears. Thus even in an environment where principle is in writing the interpretation often taking precedence.
The key elements of the British Constitution as Loughlin states (p 26-27) are based upon the Magna Carta, The Petition of Right (1628) and the Bill of Rights (1689). The commentaries of Blackstone, Dicey and Bagehot establish a written fabric for better understanding what the Constitution may be as a result of these rights. The principle of the Crown in Parliament is one of the major corner stones that is essential to the British but would be incomprehensible to Americans. How much the Constitution has "evolved" is also discussed.
Chapter 3 discusses Parliamentary Government. It is dramatically different that the US system. It in many ways combined legislative, executive and even judicial powers in this strange concoction. The Crown has a role, but clearly a slowly disappearing one. The Crown may call for a new election but that is now a formality. But the British Parliament is an evolving entity as well.
Chapter 4 speaks somewhat of the expansion of the state and of particular current interest is the devolution of the entities such as Scotland. This is covered quite well in the book (see pp 80-83). In contrast to the South or Confederacy leaving the Union the separation of Scotland, namely devolution, can be seen as within the confines of the Constitution.
Chapter 5 discusses the issues of civil liberties. Here one must wonder how well this Constitution has worked. The author does speak of the Irish atrocities and deprivation of any civil liberties on pp 92-93. This in a sense is a clear example of where the "tradition" of an unwritten Constitution is defective as compared to a written form where all have equal rights.
Loughlin ends with some interesting thoughts on where the British Constitution may go to. For him it is the process and not any specific set of words. For Loughlin there are continual concerns that its evolution may have some substantial concerns.
This book is best read along with two others; Wilson's Congressional Government and Bagehot's The English Constitution. Wilson reveals in his book his great distaste of the US Constitution which was comprised of a balance of powers amongst the branches and he lays forth well before he ascended to the Presidency his desire for a position which combined the powers of the Crown with those of the Prime Minister. In contrast Bagehot provides an interesting and timely, 1867, understanding of the English Government and its roles while using the US in post-Civil War times as less than a sterling example of another Constitution.
Overall this is a very worthwhile read especially for Americans. It is a contre temps to our own Constitutional battles as well as the expanding power of the Executive.
Martin Loughlin is Professor of Public Law at the LSE and author of a small number of books on various aspects of law published for a specialised academic readership, so well qualified to offer a condensed 118-page overview of the history, development and unique philosophical underpinnings of the British constitution.
The result is a quite detailed critique of this unique global phenomenon and how it came to be, generally written from a lawyer's perspective. For example Loughlin explains how Magna Carta and the 1689 Bill of Rights were seen from the Whig political tradition not as new developments in liberty and democracy, but merely codifying into law those rights which were universally understood to have existed since Anglo-Saxon times under the Common Law. The chapters covering the 1707 Act of Union between England and Scotland and exactly how this has worked in practice, and the process whereby political power was transferred from the `King-in-Parliament' to the political parties with the Monarch reduced to a ceremonial Head of State are quite enlightening, but not easy reading for the mind untrained in legal jargon.
Loughlin illustrates some of the potential dangers of having unwritten conventions underpinning the constitution, and uses the example of Tony Blair's government in the 1990s. Blair introduced a system of `sofa government' wherein Parliament was effectively circumvented and replaced by a kind of mediaeval court of favoured party apparatchiks who made policy behind closed doors, then used his party majority in the Commons as a rubber-stamp for new legislation. The ill-thought through `constitutional reforms' of the late 1990s are also discussed, an incomplete and asymmetric dog's breakfast which failed to reform Parliament and may lead to the breakup of the 300-year union between England and Scotland.
Overall this is an informative discourse, but unfortunately like too many academics Loughlin's writing style is dry and unengaging, which dilutes the power of the narrative and is likely to turn off the non-legalistic and non-academic reader. One can't help but feel that with a livelier and more engaging style from the author this book could have been less of an effort, and a more absorbing and memorable reading experience.
The British Constitution is shown through the almost evolutionary way it has evolved throughout the history of Britain, illustrating the way it has been amended and revised over time. The Constitution is uncodified and is not set out in any one single document. The process for this has been where, in the case of the United Kingdom, the political system developed over time was and is constantly being defined by acts of Government, Statutes, decisions of the Law Courts and Treaties. In the last case `Treaties', it is important to note that through Britain's membership in the European Union, European Law (EU Law) has had an impact on the British Constitution.
Other Constitutions have developed in other ways such as through sudden change, for example in the case of revolution, and the subsequent creation of the United States. This then sets the stage for the current precepts that make the British Constitution what it is today.