1 December 2023

Psocial security funding bill; articles 40, 47.1 and 49 paragraph 3 of the Constitution; budget riders; filibuster; motion of censure ; dissolution; Constitutional Council ; shared initiative referendum; enactment of law, etc. The legal and constitutional vocabulary suddenly spread during the pension policy sequence; citizens and journalists showed on this occasion a rare interest in our constitutional text.

It is true that the adoption of a law rarely causes such a chain of procedures. For several months, the French Constitution has left the small circle of specialists. It is present on television sets, at the counter of cafes and even in the homes of the French. This phenomenon encourages us to strengthen the link we have with it, especially if we compare it with our neighbors across the Atlantic, who glorify their founding text.

Is the ordinary lack of interest in the Constitution a remnant of revolutionary adoration for the law, “expression of the general will” ? Undoubtedly, but unfortunately parliamentary life is not the subject of great enthusiasm either, as evidenced, among other things, by the record abstention rates of recent years.

Also read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers “The pension reform crisis is not produced by the imbalance of our Constitution, but by its violation”

Whatever the cause, the consequence is indisputable: both emotional attachment to the constitutional text and knowledge of it are lacking in France. We collectively suffer from a lack of constitutional culture, which is not satisfactory in a democracy worthy of the name.

Civic education taken seriously

It is essential that everyone can understand as soon as possible the questions which, although technical in appearance, have major implications for the political life and daily life of the French people. The consequences are far from negligible: in addition to the development of a culture of opinion (and sometimes of conspiracy), decision-making is increasingly perceived as the task of experts, which contributes to reinforcing democratic inertia. .

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In doing so, the lack of a shared constitutional culture contributes to the development and aggravation of the crisis of democracy, hampering in particular the expression of citizenship. As a remedy to this crisis, most informed observers (citizens, public authorities and academics) propose reforming institutions and strengthening citizen participation, probably rightly so. It seems to us just as important to draw attention to an element that is too often absent from the democratic debate: the constitutional education of citizens at school, and this from an early age.

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