The doctoral degree is granted by the law school and is administered by the Center for Constitutional Democracy (CCD). The Center studies and promotes constitutional democracy in countries marked by ethnic, religious, linguistic, and other divisions. The Center provides hands-on support for constitutional reformers in such countries, and it offers students a unique opportunity to work directly and regularly with foreign reform leaders to support constitutional democracy.
PhD program in law and democracy
Degree overview and requirements
The PhD requires course work, field work, qualifiying exams, and a dissertation.
In order to begin your coursework in the Fall semester, your application should be submitted by January 15.
Law is necessary to democracy in two ways
Law creates democracy. First, democracy commonly refers to a set of rules and institutions that allows the people a hand in their own government: elections, referenda, legislatures, and the like. These rules and institutions are themselves legal creations: unless they are formalized in law, they will be unstable, obscure, and inaccessible to the people. Sometimes, a written constitution establishes these rules and institutions so that they are difficult to change and come to be regarded as integral to the experience of the country. In other cases, these rules and institutions are the product of statutes created by legislatures or regulations issued by executive or administrative agencies. Either way, the rules and institutions are “constitutional” in the broad sense that they fundamentally constitute the democratic order. The first dimension of the program therefore addresses the way that this fundamental legal ordering creates democracy through shaping the structure and operation of government.
Law limits democratic majorities. To be successful, democracy cannot refer merely to a contest for power through elections. Instead, a well-established democracy must rest on a culture rooted in the rule of law. In this sense, law provides norms that limit the power of those who win elections: winning allows the victors only certain legally defined prerogatives; losing does not subject the losers to the untrammeled will of the majority. Again, the constitution creates some of these limits, but even these depend on the cultural disposition of the citizenry to follow the rules. Other limits are purely cultural. Democracy works best when the citizens broadly embrace a rich web of norms regarding the limits of political power. The second dimension of the program addresses the way that fundamental legal ordering limits democracy through shared culture and legal restrictions.
Both dimensions grow from the same basic phenomenon: for democracy to work, citizens must generally support the constitutional regime even when they lose particular political battles. Their most fundamental commitment, in other words, is to the law that both creates and limits democracies.
The program is therefore about the relationship between law and democracy. It trains students to work in this area of the law with the skills and professional orientation characteristic of the best lawyers. The program rests on the view that to explore these conditions, law cannot be understood in isolation from the rest of human culture, and this close relationship is especially significant in the ways that societies craft their fundamental legal order. For this reason, students will learn about the relationship between law and democracy not only through legal scholarship, but also from the perspectives of political science, anthropology, and area studies – the four pillars that support the program. This interdisciplinary approach equips the student with the range of knowledge, theories and methods required to understand the dynamic and complex nature of democracy and law.
Additionally, though all students will be exposed to the American constitutional tradition, they must also study and research the experience of other countries by completing substantial course work in the languages, cultures, and histories of an area of the world in which they wish to do work. The program addresses the relationship between democracy and law in a specific setting: new or struggling democracies or non-democratic countries that have a pro-democracy movement. Students will study such countries not only through library research but through direct exposure to the reform process on the ground.