"Let the People Decide": Referendums in a post-sovereign age
Stephen Tierney (Law)
British Academy Senior Research Fellowship 2008-2009
This project will undertake the first detailed study of sovereignty referendums, combining empirical study and theoretical enquiry to provide a comprehensive account of how direct democracy is used today to settle matters of the highest constitutional consequence. The use of referendums has grown remarkably in the past thirty years and yet the spread of sovereignty referendums as a particular trend is almost entirely unresearched. The empirical work, which identifies four types of sovereignty referendum, will lead to the creation of a Sovereignty Referendum Database and a research network through a listserv. This will offer both an ongoing resource for academics and practitioners and the necessary data for a rigorous interrogation of two important theoretical issues: first, the relationship today between legal sovereignty and popular sovereignty, and second, whether in a globalising age it remains possible to mobilise a deliberative democratic process across a polity, engaging the people meaningfully in public reasoning.