The term “constitution” and “constitutionalism” are obviously not the same and it can be very difficult to understand their differences if a clear explanation of the both is not given. Recently, a law student from one of my Facebook groups for law sent me a message, requesting that I should kindly differentiate between the two. Consequently, I decided to share my knowledge through my blog so that more students will also get to read this work and understand the similarities and differences between constitution and constitutionalism.
If you also wish to know the meaning and difference or similarity between a constitution and constitutionalism, i enjoin you to read this work carefully. For a better understanding, I will be using the definition of the two terms to point out their differences. Here we go!
Also see: Are lawyers liars? See answer here
Meaning of constitution and constitutionalism
Constitution is a body of rules, principles and practices controlling the distribution, regulation and exercise of government powers. Such body of rules defines qualifications for government officers, guarantees the right and freedom of individuals, and prescribes procedures for constitutional amendment and so on. A constitution is more or less an articulation of the aims and objectives of the people which the government shall realize.
On the other hand, constitutionalism means the application of constitution in the realization of the set goals. It involves the proposition that the exercise of governmental powers shall be in accordance with the prescribed rules. Constitutionalism is based on the belief that government should be based on established laws and principles. In a simple sense, constitutionalism means that the constitution of an association shall be followed in determining the right and wrong or the legality of an act.
It is the interpretation and application of the constitution in order to determine the legality of an act of the executive, legislature or citizens that is seen as constitutionalism. It is the adoption of the provisions of the constitution in determining acts of government or individuals. Constitutionalism is thus one of the principles adopted in democratic states. It has a lot in common with the rule of law and legality. They are bulwark against the abuse of power.
Also see: Characteristics of a good constitution
From the above explanation of a constitution and constitutionalism one can deduce that both constitution and constitutionalism are associated with democracy. However, while constitution is a body of rules that stipulates how a state should be governed, constitutionalism is the application of the constitution. It can also be seen as the act of practicing or putting the constitution into practice to achieve settings goals.
In short, there is no huge difference between constitution and constitutionalism. Constitutionalism is just an extended word that means the application of the constitution.
Hope this short write up was helpful? By using the definition of constitution and constinalism to point out the difference between the two terms, i believe you now understand them and you will be able to distinguish between the two anytime you are called upon. Meanwhile, if you have any question or confusion on this topic, kindly let me know using the comment section below. I will be glad to clear your questions.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ChMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.