The Distorted Image of the “Other”: Why Racism Threatens Democratic Legitimacy

When members of a society encounter systematic discrimination and marginalization in their everyday lives and in the political system, this jeopardizes democratic legitimacy. From a democratic theory perspective, the extent to which a political system succeeds in guaranteeing the freedom, equality, physical integrity, and self-determination of all of its citizens is a valuable measure of its democratic legitimacy. For this reason, the prevalence and normalization of racist attitudes within a society do not just endanger the rights and well-being of those affected by them. Indeed, by undermining liberal democracy’s key promises, racism poses a serious threat to democratic legitimacy. This threat concerns all members of a given society and therefore requires a political response. Continue reading

Wait a Minute – Is China Really the Winner?

A response to Jürgen Gerhards and Michael Zürn

The systemic competition between China and liberal democracies has reached a new level. In addition to economic growth and development, managing the COVID-19 crisis has become a new benchmark for comparing the performance of alternative scripts. Jürgen Gerhards and Michael Zürn have called out China as the winner in containing the pandemic and mastering its economic and social consequences. They do not attribute China’s success to its autocratic system and to state capitalism. Pointing to the exceptional performance of Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, Gerhards and Zürn argue that it is the shared approach of “testing, tracking, and isolating,” which explains the East Asian success.

Continue reading

And the winner is… China

Does the management of the coronavirus crisis show the superiority of a technocratic autocracy?

For a long time, social scientists have assumed that the liberal model of society consisting of individual self-determination, democracy, capitalist market economy, and welfare state was the ideal way to social development and modernization. This belief was not only based on the claim of normativ superiority, but also on the claim of superior performance. The last decades however, liberal democracies proved to be far more unstable and at risk, as autocratic developments in the United States, Poland or Hungary have shown. And existing autocracies, such as the communist China, turned out to be enormously successful. Continue reading

An Irish Claim to Rockall

Due to Brexit, dispute has again arisen between the UK and Ireland over Rockall, a small rock in the North-East Atlantic Ocean, and its surrounding waters. On January 4th a Marine Scotland patrol boat stopped and boarded an Irish fishing trawler, forcing it to leave waters within 12 nautical miles of the rock. Scotland asserted the UK claim to Rockall in anticipation of Brexit and sent patrol boats to the area immediately upon formally exiting the EU legal order on January 1st. In response the Irish Ministers for Foreign Affairs and for Agriculture, Food and the Marine issued a joint statement saying they were engaging with Scottish authorities but that “there remains an increased risk of enforcement action being taken by Scottish fisheries control authorities against Irish vessels operating in the waters around Rockall at present.” Continue reading

What Makes Law Our Law? A New Justification for Procedural Legitimacy

In his contribution to the recently published volume Public Reason and Courts, Mattias Kumm provides a theory of constitutional authority. In my view, this theory is founded on intuitive foundations and I hope to complement these intuitions with a more comprehensive theory. In the following short commentary on his chapter, I will defend his argument and attempt to provide a deeper theoretical account of his concept of legitimacy.

According to Kumm, the primary role of public institutions is to settle disagreements. Two types of disagreements are at stake here–substantive and procedural. He writes: Continue reading

Don’t Neglect the Language of Law!

The starting point for my book “A Global History of Ideas in the Language of Law” which will soon be published in the series “Global Perspectives on Legal History” is the (hopefully) uncontroversial finding that the history of ideas can be written as a history of languages. This approach has been elaborated by the so-called “Cambridge School of Intellectual History”, especially in their influential writings about the languages circulating in the discourses on the legitimacy of political orders. The protagonists of the school (Pocock, Skinner et al.) coined the term “languages of politics” for the languages thus analyzed, underlining the political nature of their genesis, use and reproduction. Continue reading

How can the ECtHR stay true to its commitment to democracy?

2020 is a special year for Europe: it marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has played an essential role in stabilizing democracies in post-war and post-cold war Europe. Owing to the mandatory jurisdiction enjoyed by the European Court of Human Rights, it has had an enormous impact on the nature of democracy in the member states. Continue reading