Local Meanings of Proportionality: Exploring the Culturally Specific Logic of Proportionality in French, English and Greek Public Law

Proportionality increasingly dominates legal imagination. Its spread, accompanied by a global paradigm of constitutional rights, appears to be an irresistible natural development. Today, proportionality is perceived as a model of legal reasoning or even an emerging global grammar of constitutional adjudication. During the last decades, it has been at the core of a prescriptive human rights theory first developed in the work of Robert Alexy and claiming universal application. In comparative law, proportionality is a commonly used example of a legal transplant that attests to the convergence between legal systems, if not globally, at least within Europe. Continue reading

The Construction of the Customary Law of Peace: Latin America and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, recently called for the end to all forms of violence and a return to peaceful dialogue in response to Colombia’s recent protests by a wide range of civil society groups and trade unions disillusioned by the failure of the 2016 peace agreement to resolve the root cause of inequality. At present, Latin America may be characterized as a region which has enjoyed an epoch of “long peace”, due to the lack of inter-state wars, but a diametric rise in intra-state violence, evidenced by its ranking as having the highest level of violence in the world and in particular having the highest levels of violence against workers and women. Continue reading

Free and Fair Elections: The European Minimum Standards

In 2021, Germany faces important general elections both at the state and the federal level. Holding elections in the middle of a pandemic is challenging. Organizing free and fair elections is even more so. But when is the election free and fair? This piece presents the answers given by the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention) and its authoritative interpreter, the European Court of Human Rights (Court). It devotes special attention to Article 3 Protocol 1 of the Convention, which stipulates that ‘The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.’

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Uncertainty, Worldviews and World Politics: Newton and Beyond

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

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.

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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