Global Platform of International Public Policies

Imitation or coercion? State constitutions and federative centralization in Brazil

Imitação ou coerção? Constituições estaduais e centralização federativa no Brasil

Cláudio Gonçalves Couto, Gabriel Luan Absher Bellon


The Brazilian states’ constitutions emulate the Federal Constitution, mimicking its structure and reproducing its norms word for word. Vertical diffusion of constitutional norms prevails over horizontal diffusion of norms, that is, states are more influenced by the federal constitution than they are by each other. In part, this top-down diffusion occurs through imitation, but it is also determined by coercion, reinforced by judicial decisions. Originality in Brazilian state constitutionalism owes more to the different ways of emulating the Federal Constitution than to the creation of its own norms, making state constitutionalism additional evidence of the centralism of this federation, at least in regard to the production of legal standards. This article analyzes this phenomenon by quantitatively comparing the state and federal constitutional texts and assessing the historical conditions of their drafting.

English version

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Versão em português

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Fernando Macedo

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