The “Second Chamber”: A Historical And Comparative Sketch
The article focuses on the debate triggered by the proposal of reform of the senate in Italy. The author argues that such a debate has amounted largely to a missed opportunity as the core issue has been largely overlooked. What the reform is about, is a shift from a concept of representation revolving exclusively around the political will of the nation to a representation of territorial interests. This outlook is entirely new in the Italian constitutional landscape since 1945 but it can boast a long tradition within western constitutional thought. Starting with the American and French revolutions, it is easy to trace the origin of the struggle between two conflicting views of political representation. The former dismisses interests, whatever their source, as unworthy of being voiced as such, since only the nation in its unity deserves to speak on behalf of all its parts. The latter, without going so far as to challenge the primacy of the will of the people, still sets out the need for a representation liable to mirror the complexity of society. Local communities have always harbored a strong claim for a role within the compound of national legislation and the current crisis of political parties has supplied new steam to an old request. But how can we defuse the conflict looming between two chambers drawing their legitimacy from different sources? The answer is provided by the madisonian paradox. Second chambers can find their place in a contemporary constitution so long as they accept a subordinate role to the assembly embodying the principle of popular representation.