Constitutions as Peace Treaties: A Cautionary Tale for the Arab Spring

In societies in transition, efforts to resolve deep divisions or fundamental disagreements about the nature of society through constitutional drafting may sharpen political differences and heighten the political salience of controversial issues or social cleavages. Seeking a constitutional resolution of the most contested issues may discourage the development of an approach to political relations in which all parties commit to a vision of the future in which there is an acceptable, or at least bearable role, for all other parties. Reflecting on the Arab Spring, this paper argues that it may be better to defer resolution of the most contentious issues than to attempt to settle them as constitutional matters.


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By permission of the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, from the Stanford Law Review Online at 64 STAN. L. REV. ONLINE 8 (2011). For more information visit