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

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

Die Geschichte des Völkerrechts wurde in der Vergangenheit als eine ĂŒberwiegend europĂ€ische Geschichte und als Teil der Geschichte der europĂ€ischen Ex­pansion erzĂ€hlt: Im ius gentium europaeum der christlich-europĂ€ischen 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 StaatsvertrĂ€ge und anderen. Ein solches Völkerrecht blieb aber zunĂ€chst ohne Geltung fĂŒr 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 ErzĂ€hlung 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

Lockdown Fatigue: Pandemic from the Perspective of Nudge Theory

Some governments have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing policies based on ideas from behavioural psychology, especially ‘nudge theory’. But the pandemic has highlighted two important failings of ‘nudging’ – its libertarian opposition to state intervention; and its lack of any theory of psychological interiority.

First popularised by Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein and University of Chicago behavioural economist Richard Thaler, nudge theory has been credited for many policies that are common-sensical – positioning hand sanitisers in prominent locations in receptions of buildings accompanied by colourful signage will increase usage; citizens should be advised to sing happy birthday while washing their hands as this will ensure their handwashing lasts for the recommended duration; tissues might be placed within easy reach of office workers to discourage unprotected face touching; etc. Continue reading

The Problems of Genocide

I am interested in the various problems of genocide: not only the terrible fact of mass death, but also how the relatively new idea and law of genocide organises and distorts our thinking about civilian destruction. Taking the normative perspective of civilian immunity from military attack that international law and norms ostensibly prioritize, my book argues that their implicit hierarchy, atop which sits genocide as the “crime of crimes,” blinds us to other types of humanly caused civilian death, like bombing cities and the “collateral damage” of missile and drone strikes, blockades, and sanctions. In other words, talk of genocide functions ideologically to detract from systematic violence against civilians perpetrated by governments, including Western ones. Continue reading

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