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At the intersection of political theory and legal theory, this is about analyses and strategies on the disintegration of the liberal consensus - my co-editor Kolja Möller and I welcome article proposals!

The 2010s have been a grim decade for the democratic rule of law. The enormous rise in power of right-wing populist parties in Europe and America and the development of more autocratic regimes in Eastern Europe and South America call into question the specifically constitutional combination of basic liberal rights, democracy, and the welfare state that enjoyed public support and was the central starting point of political theory. On the one hand, it formed the normative point of orientation for many research projects. On the other hand, even most critical perspectives that pointed out this consensus for its blind spots presupposed this initial situation as stable.

Against this background, this issue seeks analyses and explanatory approaches that illuminate and classify recent change and clarify promising ways of dealing with it. Although diagnoses from the field of populism studies (Müller 2016; Jörke/Nachtwey 2017) are available in the meantime, it seems to us that the resources of political theory would have to be more comprehensively harnessed in order to arrive at a deeper and more precise analysis of recent developments. This is especially true in two respects:

(1) Authoritarian turn through constitutional politics.

To date, it is true that a tendency to reshape democratic constitutional institutions has been observed, characterized as “illiberal” (Mounk 2018) or as “authoritarian” (Scheppele 2018; Chambers 2018). On the other hand, such observations have to deal with the problem that the supporting actors of dissolution movements often stage themselves as “democratic,” “freedom-defending,” or “lateral-thinking” and are perceived as such by parts of the public. In particular, they claim central constitutional norms, such as popular sovereignty, fundamental rights, or freedom of expression (Blokker 2018).

To classify these paradoxical combinations, a stronger link back to systematic research in political theory might be helpful. For example, considerations that follow the tradition of analyses of Bonapartism and Caesarism in Karl Marx and Max Weber have repeatedly pointed to the efficacy of such combinations (Brunkhorst 2007; Baehr 1999). Existing fascism research, with its discussions of the contours of a “new right” (Griffin 2000), could also be harnessed to classify the tendencies, examine them for points of contact, or delineate them. Finally, it will also be pointed out that in the present, no complete dissolution of constitutional rights ties can be observed, but rather their “authoritarian” transformation (Frankenberg 2020).

Against this background, we are interested in contributions that shed light on how the recent transformation of existing constitutional institutions should be classified. This refers not least to how it is justified. From the standpoint of political theory and legal theory, it would be particularly important to analyze the justifications for the transformation of the liberal constitutional state: Where are “originalist” understandings of the constitution put in place that see themselves as “guardians” of a “proper” founding constitution of the polity (Reich 2017)? How are constitutionalist justificatory contexts shifting? Can we observe arguments moving between national contexts and between party systems and legal systems? Does authoritarian restructuring involve the same transnational transmission contexts between national legal cultures as once occurred during the spread of global constitutionalism?

(2) Futures: With or beyond the “liberal consensus”?

In view of the diagnosed dissolution tendencies, the question also arises as to how the resources of political theories could be used for promising response patterns: should the cornerstones of the liberal consensus be defended with particular vehemence right now, or does its normative content or inevitability become particularly apparent in the crisis and the confrontation with authoritarian alternatives (Kumm/Havercroft/Dunoff/Wiener 2017)? Is the crisis itself an expression of inner contradictions and paradoxes of the liberal program (Mouffe 2018) - and is it now that critical theories of all stripes come into their own, pointing to its interconnectedness with economic exploitation and repressive standardization? If this is true, how can we deal with the fact that “rebellious” criticism of existing institutions today is often formulated “from the right,” giving the impression that there is agreement between the left and the right regarding criticism of liberalism? How could differentiated answers be conceived in this initial situation? To what extent is liberalism capable of reform and could achieve greater responsiveness to social protest? Given the initial situation, would constitutional institutions also need to be rethought-whether in terms of a “popular” opening (Kramer 2004; Tushnet 2006), or conversely in terms of a strengthened “resilience” to political change (Ginsburg/Aziz 2018), or as a dual movement that makes them equally more stable (against authoritarianism) and transformative (toward critique)? We are interested in papers that explore these questions at the intersection of critical, republican, and liberal political theory, as well as legal and constitutional theory.


Abstracts of no more than 3,000 characters should be sent to Dr. Kolja Möller (kolja.moeller ÄTT and Dr. Karsten Schubert (karsten.schubert ÄTT by May 31, 2021. Feedback by the editors will be provided by June 30, 2021. Finished papers (length 60,000 including spaces) are due by Jan. 30, 2022. Selection for printing is subject to a double blind peer-review process. Guidelines for the formal design of the contributions can be found at


CfP as pdf

Cited Literature

Baehr, Peter, An ‘ancient sense of politics’? Weber, Caesarism and the Republican tradition, in: European Journal of Sociology 40, 2 (1999), S. 333-350.
Blokker, Paul, Populist Constitutionalism, in: Carlos De la Torre (Hrsg.), Routledge Handbook of Global Populism, Oxon/New York 2018, S. 113-127.
Brunkhorst, Hauke, Kommentar, in: Hauke Brunkhorst (Hrsg.), Karl Marx. Der achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte, Frankfurt am Main 2007, S. 133-328.
Chambers, Simone, Afterword: Populist Constitutionalism v. Deliberative Constitutionalism, in: Graeme Orr/Hoi Kong/Jeff King/Ron Levy (Hrsg.), The Cambridge Handbook of Deliberative Constitutionalism, Cambridge 2018, S. 370-372.
Frankenberg, Günter, Autoritarismus - Verfassungstheoretische Perspektiven, Berlin 2020.
Ginsburg, Tom / Aziz, Huq Z., How to save a constitutional democracy?, Chicago 2018.
Griffin, Roger, Interregnum or endgame? The radical right in the ‘post-fascist’ era, in: Journal of Political Ideologies 5, 2 (2000), S. 163-178.
Jörke, Dirk / Nachtwey, Oliver (Hrsg.), Book Das Volk gegen die (liberale) Demokratie, Baden-Baden 2017.
Kramer, Larry D., The People Themselves. Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review, Oxford/New York 2004.
Kumm, Mattias / Havercroft, Jonathan / Dunoff, Jeffrey / Wiener, Antje, Editorial: The end of ‘the West’ and the future of global constitutionalism, in: Global Constitutionalism 6, 1 (2017), S. 1-11.
Mouffe, Chantal, For a Left Populism, London/New York 2018.
Mounk, Yascha, Der Zerfall der Demokratie: Wie der Populismus den Rechtsstaat bedroht, München 2018.
Müller, Jan-Werner, Was ist Populismus?, Berlin 2016.
Reich, Johannes, „Originalismus“ als methodologischer Scheinriese und verfassungspolitische Konterrevolution, in: Jahrbuch des öffentlichen Rechts der Gegenwart 65, (2017), S. 714-742.
Scheppele, Kim Lane, Autocratic Legalism, in: University of Chicago Law Review 85, 2 (2018), S. 545-583.
Tushnet, Mark, Popular Constitutionalism as Political Law, in: Chicago-Kent Law Review 81, (2006), S. 991-1006.

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