As I'm sitting here working on popular constitutional ideas in the days leading into secession, I see that my friend Elizabeth Dale has a new article up on ssrn on popular constitutional ideas disseminated via the web in Italy in 2010, "From Opera to Real Democracy Popular Constitutionalism Web 2.0." Here is Elizabeth's abstract:
On March 17, 2011 the conductor Riccardo Muti stood in the orchestra pit at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and, in the presence of the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano, denounced the Italian government’s cuts to funding for the arts and culture. He then invited the entire audience to join the opera’s chorus in an encore of Va’ Pensiero, the hymn of the Hebrew slaves in Nabucco, to protest the cuts. Within two days of that sing-a-long, the Italian government reversed the course it set more than ten months before and agreed to a tax that would be used to restore funds to the arts and culture budget. In this article, I trace how and why those acts of protest in Italy developed, succeeded, and then were appropriated by transnational activists interested in encouraging popular constitutionalism. Because that entire process made considerable use of Facebook, blogs, YouTube, and Twitter, this case study simultaneously explores how a popular protest became a successful expression of popular constitutionalism and considers how the messages of that protest evolved across a transnational public sphere that encompassed Web 2.0.
The paper's a fun read; I do wonder how much legal historians are now talking about all popular protests as a form of popular constitutionalism. That is, I wonder where the democracy ends and the constitutionalism begins. For Elizabeth's paper, I think constitutionalism and nationalism are used as similar (even if not interchangeable) terms. From my perspective in the pre-Civil War south nationalism and constitutionalism were certainly allied ideas. I think the Constitution and constitutionalism has a particular resonance that's distinct from social and economic desires -- though social and economic desires exert a gravitational pull on constitutional thought. But I don't call every argument made in the secession conventions a branch of popular (or public) constitutionalism.
Because I don't have a picture of an Italian opera house in my files to illustrate this post, I'm using an old opera house from New Castle, Delaware, to illustrate it. This was the subject of a bookstore trivia question last year.