The Definition of the Constitution

Subject: Law
Pages: 2
Words: 283
Reading time:
< 1 min

The notion ‘constitution’ has several meanings, one of which derives from the ancient, general understanding thereof, and another one means the narrow, modern understanding. Starting from ancient times, the constitution was a cultural phenomenon and meant a general form of government, rule, and code of conduct governing the lives of people: “The ancient Greeks saw the constitution as a cultural phenomenon – a formal expression of the way people conduct politics and the appropriate public attitudes that support a particular form of government”.

In modern times, a constitution is understood in a much narrower meaning and is considered a document summarizing the fundamental political provisions of a sovereign state. It is usually the basic set of laws for a democratic nation. In all states that are governed politically by a constitution, it represents the dominant political act that dominates all other laws and provisions that can be adopted in a country. In case some act is unconstitutional, it has no force. The constitution is cherished and observed in all truly democratic countries, whereas the seemingly democratic ones can manipulate the constitutions and adopt unconstitutional laws.

It is hard to say whether a constitution is a rigid or a flexible document because the situation differs across countries. In the USA, for example, the constitution is very rigid, but the judges have learned to interpret the provisions of the constitution in an individual way so that to make their judgments in court, which is seriously debated nowadays. In other countries, it is officially accepted to adopt some laws notwithstanding the constitution (e.g., Canada), thus showing the supplementary but not the guiding role of this document.