Proportionality, Exception, and Transformation in Times of Pandemics: Expanding the Spectrum of Constitutional Relevance

As the literature on authoritarian constitutionalism and democratic decay has repeatedly remarked, there are several factors that distinguish the wave of neo-authoritarianism that currently travels the world from earlier instantiations of the genre. One of them is the fact that contemporary neo-authoritarians do not outlaw the opposition, cancel elections, shut down the media, or violently repress social discontent, but rather use softer and often legally admissible ways of advancing their agenda – generating patterns of gradual but sustained and ever deeper democratic erosion, instead of sudden collapse. A second distinguishing factor is that the current authoritarian wave affects as much “new” democracies that have experienced rule-of-law and democratic-quality problems for long, as prestigious constitutional democracies we considered to be exceedingly consolidated. There is a sort of unexpected levelling-down, “equalization-in-the-bad” component to current developments. Continue reading

Corona and the Renaissance of National Borders

“Viruses do not have a passport”, declared French President Macron[1] on 12 March 2020 in a major television address to the French people. He was particularly interested in the measures taken by neighbouring Germany which had declared the French region of “Grand Est” a “risk area” the day before. Continue reading

Gegen obrigkeits­staatliche Tendenzen in der Krise. Massive Freiheitseingriffe und deren Grundrechtliche Rechtfertigung

I. Der massiv eingreifende Staat unter grundrechtlichem Rechtfertigungsdruck

Die Grundentscheidung vor über vier Wochen, der Corona-Pandemie mit einem weitgehenden Lockdown zu begegnen, war trotz der für die Nachkriegszeit präzedenzlosen Grundrechtseinschränkungen – bei aller berechtigter Kritik an Formalitäten (siehe hier und hier) und auch einiger Einzelmaßnahmen (siehe hier und hier) – grundsätzlich verfassungsrechtlich gerechtfertigt. Mehr noch, hätten die Bundes-und Landesregierungen einen Kurs verfolgt, der auf Grundrechtsbeschränkungen verzichtet hätte und der Pandemie freien Lauf gewährt hätte, um schnellstmöglich weitreichende Immunität und damit das relativ schnelle Ende der Pandemie bei möglichst geringem wirtschaftlichen Schaden zu erreichen, wäre eine solche Lösung auf der Basis der zum Entscheidungszeitpunkt vorliegenden Datenlage möglicherweise eine verfassungswidrige Verletzung der staatlichen Schutzplicht gegenüber dem Recht auf Leben und körperlicher Unversehrtheit potentieller Opfer der Krankheit. Continue reading

Hungary’s Orbánistan: A Complete Arsenal of Emergency Powers

On 23 March 1933, an act was adopted in Nazi Germany in response to the “crisis” of the Reichstag fire to enable Hitler to issue decrees independently of the Reichstag and the presidency. Article 48 of the constitution of the Weimar Republic made this act possible. Eighty-seven years later, on 23 March 2020, the so-called ‘Enabling Act’ was put before the Hungarian Parliament. This was drafted under emergency constitutional provisions in Articles 48-54.

Continue reading

The New Haven School and Psychologies of Interwar Legal Science

The widespread contemporary understanding of the New Haven School runs as follows. In the 1940s American power rises. Shrugging the formalism of international law, Hans Morgenthau, George F. Kennan and great power politics announce a new paradigm. Myres McDougal senses the zeitgeist the realists have captured and leads a ‘legal’ response. Positivist social science is instrumentally refashioned as ‘policy-science’, the lawyer policy-scientist pitched as the anti-communist power behind the throne. The story tends to be completed by one of two alternative conclusions. For some critics this ends as a story of Cold Warrior lawyers hawking a method skewed to imperial American policy. A cautionary tale of lawyers losing sight of legality in a clash between ‘realism’ and ‘legalism’.  A moral of this critical story tends to be that policy-oriented lawyers were bought out of their vocation by hegemony and neoliberalism. Continue reading

„Trump ist nicht das Problem, sondern nur ein Symptom“

Maximilian Steinbeis/Verfassungsblog: Das Impeachment-Verfahren gegen Donald Trump ist gescheitert. Welchen Schaden hat die US-Verfassung darüber genommen?

Mattias Kumm: Der Schaden ist erst einmal ein politischer. Die Entscheidung ist strikt nach Parteilinie gefallen, fast kein Republikaner hat für die Amtsenthebung gestimmt. Ein solches Verfahren wie das Impeachment kann, wenn es gut läuft, an einem konkreten Fall allgemein verbindliche Mindeststandards als Exempel statuieren. Diese Funktion hat das Verfahren jedenfalls nicht erfüllt, sondern nur die tiefe Zerrissenheit des Landes sichtbar gemacht. Continue reading

African International Legal Histories – A Topic Where, For Whom, and Why Not? A Retrospective

What is a topic in international law scholarship? Any answer will most probably include the term “relevance”, perhaps also a reference to some “general interest”. Such a (rather quantitative) answer will evaluate what international law scholars actually write about at a given time. It will conclude from a list of publications that some topics have been considered more relevant than others by international law scholars, as they wrote more about the former topics and less (or nothing) about the others which subsequently may be considered less relevant – even “irrelevant”.

Another way of responding to the question may include a geographical aspect – the question then changes into “what topic is relevant where?” This question occurred to me when I wrote my article “African International Legal Histories” (2018) in response to a call for papers which asked “why it is that we write the [international legal] histories we write” and “what questions we fail to explore”. Continue reading