Princeton University-Humboldt University Workshop: "The Rise of Authoritarian Constitutionalism: Historical and Normative Perspectives"

Fri, Oct 13, 2017, 9:00 am to Sat, Oct 14, 2017, 5:00 pm
301 Marx Hall

ABSTRACT: After 1989, constitutionalism appeared to go on a triumphant global march. Constitutionalism seemed inextricably linked to democracy in an overall package with the label “liberal democracy.” Not least, it was good for business; a global industry flourished to promote it and the rule of law.  A quarter century later the picture looks rather different. Democratic constitutionalism remains a prized possession, which appears without alternative for the stable and sustainable organization of democratic political systems. But what can pass for constitutionalism appears to have changed dramatically; and the directly proportional relationship between constitutionalism and liberal democracy has been put into doubt. The often naïve attempt to develop stable democratic systems by means of “constitutional engineering” has frequently been disappointed. Most worrying, authoritarian regimes seem to have developed a form of constitutionalism that scholars have found hard to understand and to criticize; many of the traditional tools to detect domination and lack of pluralism do not seem to work very well: just think of the difficulties in assessing recent developments in Turkey, Hungary, and Poland. Meanwhile, in the EU at large, the inclusion of “debt brakes” in the constitutions of the Eurozone countries has conjured up the specter of an “authoritarian liberalism”, where constraints on popular will formation in a range of policy areas are so tight that the existence of democracy itself can be called into question.

Against the background of these developments, we would like to examine the emergence of authoritarian constitutions more closely.  How can they be recognized?  How do they function?  And how do politicians justify them?  Are there historical precedents that might be examined productively, or are we in completely uncharted waters?

Reflection pieces can be found at:
Please contact Kim Girman at (609) 258-5496 for the password.


Friday, October 13, 2017

9:45 - Welcome and Introduction
Silvia von Steinsdorff, Anna Kaiser, Jan-Werner Mueller

10:00 - Authoritarian Constitutionalism: Conceptual Challenges
Chair: Jan-Werner Mueller

1:30 - Causes and Consequences
Chair: Anna Kaiser

Andrew Arato: "How we got here? Transition Failures, their Causes, and the Populist Interest in the Constitution"
David Landau: “Formal constitutional change and democratic erosion"

3:30 - Cases I
Chair: Silvia von Steinsdorff

Saturday, October 14, 2017

9:30 - Cases II
Chair: Kim Lane Scheppele

1:00 - Counter-Strategies?
Chair: Jan-Werner Müller

The workshop is cosponsored by the Department of Politics, the Bouton Law Lectures Fund and a Humboldt-Princeton Strategic Partnership Grant.