“We the People” – What is the legal meaning of “people”?

People is a fundamental concept in constitutional law. The legitimacy of all state action has to be rooted somehow in the people. Federal constitutional orders recognize the existence of a national and of separate regional political bodies. Therefore, the subject behind, defined as the basis of all state power, is not clear. This paper has two objectives. First, it delivers a little exercise of comparative law focusing on the use of the concept of people in the constitutional orders of the United States, Germany, Spain and the European Union. In each part it is of primary interest to inquire how the constitutional provisions use the term people. As all legal texts have to be understood in context, the second section analyses the pertinent jurisprudence of supreme or constitutional courts, with some hints to the main points discussed in legal doctrine. The second objective is to discuss more in detail the controversy on the principle of democracy and the notion people in German legal scholarship, presenting the two main lines of argument.