The origins of parliamentary responsibility

Adam Przeworski, Tamar Asadurian, Anjali Thomas Bohlken

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    “Toute Constitution est un régicide.” l’abbé Rauzan, quoted in de Wasquerel and Yvert 2002: 61 Introduction The topic of this chapter is the origins of government responsibility to parliaments, the shift of the power to appoint governments from the monarch to elected assemblies. Whereas one can adduce several reasons to study the history of parliamentary responsibility, the motivation here is most trivial, namely that it has not been done, or at least not done well. As luck would have it, however, histories of constitutional monarchies turn out to be mischievously subversive: Countries in which the principle of parliamentary responsibility was written into constitutions did not practice it, whereas some practiced it long before it was constitutionalized. Thus questions abound: Why write a constitution that would not be observed? Why constitutionalize a status quo that is already an equilibrium without being written down? And the elephant in the room: What, if any, is the effect of constitutions on the actual political practices? The text is organized as follows. Parliamentary responsibility is defined and constitutions of monarchies are described first. The structure of conflicts engendered by these constitutions is then analyzed and the feasible historical paths of constitutional monarchies are distinguished. Finally, the actual histories are summarized. For lazy readers, sketches of histories of particular countries are relegated to the Appendix, but the devil is in the detail, so they should be consulted.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationComparative Constitutional Design
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages37
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139105712
    ISBN (Print)9781107020566
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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