A colloquium organized under the auspices of the “Constitutionalism under Stress” Project, co-sponsored by Princeton University and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.
The topic is “The Other ‘Transitology’: Pathways into and out of Authoritarianism in the Twenty-First Century – Empirical and Normative Perspectives.”
It has become conventional wisdom that, across the globe, democracies are under threat or even undergoing a process of systematic decay. Yet relatively little has been said about the exact role of institutions commonly associated with democracy – from courts to free media – once a transition into authoritarianism has started. Can they slow it down? Might they make things worse if some institutions simply serve as facades, as analysts of “autocratic legalism” have sometimes suggested? And how are individuals – in particular professionals such as judges and journalists – to act under such conditions? Should they selectively collaborate with emerging authoritarian regimes in under to retain some influence? Should they protest – thereby possibly confirming the reproach often levelled against professionals that they are also always just doing politics (usually: liberal) by other means? We appear not have accounts the ethics both of institutions and of individuals under conditions of transition into undemocratic – or, as some might prefer to call it – “illiberal” regimes.
There’s something else we don’t seem to have: ideas about ways to transition out of these new authoritarian regimes. Can ideas such as pluralist constitution-making in the form of round tables be revived? And if not, what innovative strategies might be devised?
Free and Open to the Public