Who to trust?

Who to follow?

Who to obey?

These questions are central to our systems of government. A government cannot function if it does not have authority – but that authority is often taken for granted. 

Where does authority come from? What is it based on? How is it maintained – or lost? These are the questions which the Foundations of Institutional Authority project will explore.

Our project examines a question that is fundamental to systems of constitutional government: from where do public institutions get their authority?

Constitutional law tends to assume that authority comes from the law: that people comply with an instruction because it comes from an official designated by law.

But the reality is often much more complicated. An institution’s authority may be influenced by multiple factors: its history, identity, popularity, or levels of public trust. An institution’s authority can also change over time. It can become stronger – or it can collapse.

The goal of the research is to investigate this issue by talking directly to the people whose views shape institutional authority: political leaders, government officials and – most importantly – ordinary people. By asking people their views on the institutions that govern them, the project team hopes to build a better understanding of how constitutional systems actually operate.

The Foundations of Institutional Authority (FIAT) is an interdisciplinary research project based at the Centre for Constitutional Studies in the Sutherland School of Law, University College Dublin and funded by a European Research Council Consolidator grant.

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UCD Sutherland School of Law

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 819877)