Authoritarian Liberalism: The Conjuncture Behind the Crisis

22 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2018

See all articles by Michael A. Wilkinson

Michael A. Wilkinson

London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: March 9, 2018


Behind the constitutional crisis of the European Union lies the conjuncture of ‘authoritarian liberalism’, when politically authoritarian forms of governing emerge to protect the material order of economic liberalism. This constitutional conjuncture can be grasped by integrating into constitutional enquiry the material dynamic between democracy and capitalism, as recently theorised by Wolfgang Streeck. Authoritarian liberalism can then be explored across a much deeper and longer constitutional trajectory, from the interwar breakdown of liberal constitutionalism, to its post-war and post-Maastricht reconstruction, in each case represented by a de-democratisation of the economy. From this perspective, the recent assaults on democracy in the Euro-crisis appear to be a continuation of, rather than divergence from, the normal path of integration. Where this will end remains to be seen. Although authoritarian liberalism is increasingly accompanied by authoritarian illiberal responses, there has not yet been any definitive rupture, with the possible exception of Brexit.

Suggested Citation

Wilkinson, Michael A., Authoritarian Liberalism: The Conjuncture Behind the Crisis (March 9, 2018). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 5/2018, Available at SSRN: or

Michael A. Wilkinson (Contact Author)

London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

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