What is the Difference Between Constitution and Constitutionalism

The main difference between constitution and constitutionalism is that constitution is a system of basic principles according to which a nation or state is governed while constitutionalism basically refers to adherence to a constitutional system of government.

Almost all the countries or states in the world have a constitution, but not every government conducts itself in a manner consistent with the constitution.  

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Constitution 
     – Definition, Features
2. What is Constitutionalism
     – Definition, Features
3. Difference Between Constitution and Constitutionalism
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Constitution, ConstitutionalismDifference Between Constitution and Constitutionalism - Comparison Summary

What is Constitution

A constitution is the fundamental set of rules and principles that specifies how a country should be governed, what rights citizens possess and how power is distributed. It forms the primary organizing principles of a political state. In some countries, it’s a specific document (for example, in the US). However, in some other countries like the UK, a constitution is a collection of documents, statues as well as traditional practices that are typically accepted as governing political matters. Almost all the countries or states in the world have a constitution, but not every government conducts itself in a manner consistent with the constitution.  

If we look at the content of a constitution, it essentially contains rules and principles regarding the following areas:

Guidelines and rules for the conduction of elections – It stipulates when and how to hold elections, who can compete for an election, descriptions of the electoral system, and provisions for the oversight of elections.

Main branches of the government and their relationship – It describes the branches of the government; typically, the executive, the legislature and the judiciary are the three main pillars of a democratic political system. The constitution also sets apart the powers each branch holds and how to elect and remove individuals who control them (chief executive).

Difference Between Constitution and Constitutionalism

In addition to the above, a constitution also addresses and describes many issues like the rights of citizens, amendments to the constitution, the overall type of government (for example, the American constitution indicates that it will be both democratic and federal), values and principles of the nation, etc. The elements or components of a constitution may also vary from country to country.

What is Constitutionalism

Constitutionalism is a political philosophy or doctrine based on the concept that the government’s authority is determined by the constitution. It holds the concept that the state is not free to do anything it wants. Moreover, this provides legitimacy to a democratic government.

In fact, constitutionalism is far more important than having a written constitution. As we mentioned above, although almost all countries have constitutions, this does not mean that they conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the constitution.

Difference Between Constitution and Constitutionalism

Definition

A constitution is the fundamental set of rules and principles that specifies how a country should be governed, what rights citizens possess and how power is distributed while constitutionalism is a political philosophy or doctrine based on the concept that the government’s authority is determined by the constitution.

Nature

A constitution is a system of basic principles describing the governance of a nation or state while constitutionalism basically refers to adherence to a constitutional system of government.

Conclusion

A constitution is a system of basic principles describing the governance of a nation or state while constitutionalism basically refers to adherence to a constitutional system of government. Therefore, this is the main difference between constitution and constitutionalism. Furthermore, constitutionalism is more important than having a written constitution.

Reference:

1. “What Is a Constitution?” tutor2u, 21 Mar. 2021, Available here.
2. “What Is Constitutionalism? What Are Its Principles? Know More for UPSC.” BYJUS, 18 Dec. 2020, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. Constitution India” By Nikhil 1830978 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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