Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life and the open-endedness of the future. The pandemic gripping the world in 2020 is one such instance. As the virus spread, a sense of personal vulnerability spread together with radical uncertainty, barely masked by incessant talk about changing risk calculations. In such moments many of us do not turn to theories, models or hypotheses. Instead, we turn to worldviews to give us some traction in a world suddenly turned upside-down. President Trump’s worldview valued national borders. Early on, he imposed a travel ban on China. The World Health Organization and many critics of the President were aghast. Their worldview valued open borders and unobstructed travel. Science did not provide much guidance in the early stages of the pandemic; worldviews did. Continue reading
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
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.
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
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
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
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