Constitution-writing in deeply divided societies: The incrementalist approach

Hanna Lerner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The article addresses the puzzle of how societies still grappling over the common values and shared vision of their state draft a democratic constitution. It argues that an incrementalist approach to constitution-making enabled such deeply divided societies to enact either a written constitution or function with a material constitution by deferring controversial choices regarding the foundational aspects of the polity to future political institutions. It demonstrates how various types of incrementalist constitutional strategies - such as avoidance of clear decisions, the use of ambivalent and vague legal language, or the inclusion of contrasting provisions in the constitution - were deployed in the constitutional drafting of three deeply divided societies: India, Ireland and Israel. By importing the existing ideational conflicts into their constitutions, and by deviating from the common perception of constitution-making as a revolutionary moment, the framers in these three cases enabled their constitutions to reflect the divided identity of 'the people'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-88
Number of pages21
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010


  • Constitution-Making
  • Constitutions
  • Divided societies
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Israel


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