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Research Group on Constitutional Studies

The Research Group on Constitutional Studies encompasses scholars from the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy and the Faculty of Law. Constitutionalism as a field of inquiry includes the classical idea of a fit between governing regimes and the societies they govern, and associated questions about what kinds of bodies of citizens can support what kinds of government.  It also includes the modern idea of the basic rules and institutions that provide the fundamental framework of, and limits on, politics and government; constitutional law is a part (but only a part) of that idea.  Broadly speaking we understand the study of constitutionalism to be where the normative analysis of politics characteristic of political thory and philosophy overlaps with the empirical work done in parts of political science (studies of constitutional rules and design, federalism, judicial politics, the separation of powers) as well as the jurisprudential work characteristically done by legal scholars (constitutional law, philosophy of law, theories of rights).

In addition to the team of faculty researchers, RGCS includes postdoctoral fellows, visiting scholars such as the annual Visiting Fulbright Chair in Constitutional and Political Theory, nine Ph.D. fellows who are provided with office space, and a group of undergraduate and MA Fellows who take part in a reading group.  Regular RGCS activities include a works-in-progress workshop for the faculty and postdoctoral researchers and a public lecture series.

Many RGCS activities are cosponsored with the Montreal-wide Groupe de Recherche Interuniversitaire en Philosophie Politique (GRIPP).

RGCS is located on the 4th floor of Ferrier Hall, 840 Dr. Penfield.  

Announcements and news

Upcoming events

RGCS Lecture:  Donald L. Horowitz, "Federalism for Severely Divided Societies: Possibilities and Pathologies."  Thursday September 18, 4:30-6 pm, McGill University Faculty Club Ballroom.

Donald L. Horowitz is the James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science Emeritus at Duke University and Senior Fellow at the International Forum for Democratic Studies of the National Endowment for Democracy. He is the author of seven books: The Courts and Social Policy (1977), which won the Louis Brownlow Award of the National Academy of Public Administration; The Jurocracy (1977), a book about government lawyers; Coup Theories and Officers’ Motives: Sri Lanka in Comparative Perspective (1980); Ethnic Groups in Conflict (1985, 2000); A Democratic South Africa? Constitutional Engineering in a Divided Society (1991), which won the Ralph Bunche Prize of the American Political Science Association; The Deadly Ethnic Riot (2001); and Constitutional Change and Democracy in Indonesia (2013). He is the world's foremost expert on the politics and institutions of ethnically divided societies, and has consulted with governments around the world on constitutional reform, federalism, and the protection of ethnic minorities.

This RGCS Lecture is cosponsored by the Department of Political Science, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Arts, the Institute for the Study of International Development, the European Union Centre for Excellence, the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship, and the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. This lecture has received additional support from the Beatty Memorial Lectures Committee.

Free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

Book Launch for The Structure of Pluralism by Víctor M. Muñiz-Fraticell, Tuesday September 30, Librairie Paragraphe Bookstore, 2220 McGill College Avenue

Visiting Scholars

The holder of the Visiting Fulbright Chair in the Theory and Practice of Constitutionalism in the fall of 2014 is Erin F. DelaneyAssistant Professor of Law and by courtesy Assistant Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University.

Caleb Yong (D.Phil, Oxford) is an RGCS Postdoctoral Fellow in 2014-15.  

Yann Allard-Tremblay (Ph.D., University of St. Andrews) is an FRQSC Postdoctoral Fellow at RGCS in 2014-15.

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Recent books by RGCS faculty and fellows


Evan Fox-Decent, Sovereignty's Promise Jacob T. Levy and Iris Marion Young, eds., Colonialism and Its LegaciesFilippo Sabetti, Civilization and Self-GovernmentRobert Sparling, Johann Georg Hamann and the Enlightenment Project Christina Tarnopolsky, Prudes, Perverts, and Tyrants



Posted in Ferrier 422
Judith Shklar '49, Charles Taylor '52, G.A. Cohen '61