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

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

Afrikanische Akteure und Interessen. Eine globale Geschichte des Völkerrechts wird erst noch geschrieben

Die Geschichte des Völkerrechts wurde in der Vergangenheit als eine überwiegend europäische Geschichte und als Teil der Geschichte der europäischen Ex­pansion erzählt: Im ius gentium europaeum der christlich-europäischen Staatenfamilie haben sich seit dem 17. Jahrhundert die prinzipiell gleichberechtigten Staaten Europas zwischenstaatlichen Normen unterworfen – dem Gesandtschaftsrecht, dem Recht zum Krieg, dem Recht im Krieg, dem Recht der Staatsverträge und anderen. Ein solches Völkerrecht blieb aber zunächst ohne Geltung für die Völker Asiens oder Afrikas außerhalb der „Alten Welt“ und Neu-Europas in der „Neuen Welt“.

Seit rund zwei Jahrzehnten verfolgen Forscherinnen und Forscher ein großes neues Projekt: Die eurozentrische Erzählung soll einer globalen völkerrechtlichen Forschungsperspektive auf die Geschichte der internationalen Beziehungen weichen, die die friedlichen oder gewaltsamen Verflechtungen – auch durch Imperialismus und Kolonialismus – zwischen Staaten auf allen Kontinenten in den Blick nimmt. 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

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

One Size Fits Nobody – Questioning Concepts of ‘The State’

The volume “Von Staat zu Staatlichkeit”, edited by Gunnar Folke Schuppert, wants “to supplement the overly narrow concept of the state with the concept of statehood” – or even to replace it and thus pursue “Staatlichkeitswissenschaft” (statehood studies) rather than the traditional “Staatswissenschaft” (state studies). It aims at overcoming the problem that many political entities – nowadays, yet also throughout history – do not fulfil criteria such as full sovereignty, territorial integrity, a legitimate government or efficient bureaucracy, derived from the idealised, so-called post-1648 ‘Westphalian State’ or its OECD update. The semantic shift from state to statehood provides a means to avoid a simplifying either/or-approach, enabling a nuanced view on forms of governance, because most, if not all these supposedly deficient entities will show at least some degrees of statehood. Instead of counting the deficits an empire, a ‘failed’ state, Continue reading

Böckenförde on the Constituent Power of the People

The recent translation and edition of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde’s work into English by Mirjam Künkler and Tine Stein represents an important impulse for the reception of a still marginal author in Anglo-Saxon constitutional theory. Böckenförde’s notable absence in the Anglo-Saxon debate so far has produced an artificial division between Anglo-Saxon and German constitutional theory. That division has weakened the understanding of important developments in Germany and obscured its connections with Anglo-American theory. The broad and competent translation of Böckenförde by Oxford University Press could now help to link German constitutional theory under the Grundgesetz to Anglo-Saxon constitutional theory, from which other legal traditions can draw important lessons. Continue reading