Resisting Democratic Backsliding: An Essay on Weimar, Self-Enforcing Constitutions, and the Frankfurt School

Global Constitutionalism, vol. 7, no. 1, 54-74 (2018).

Posted: 26 Sep 2018

See all articles by Sujit Choudhry

Sujit Choudhry

Center for Constitutional Transitions; Center for Global Constitutionalism, WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Date Written: August 25, 2018

Abstract

What, if anything, can constitutions do to resist democratic backsliding? The collapse of the Weimar Republic has led scholars of comparative politics to conclude that constitutional forms and institutions can do little to resist the breakdown of democracy and the rise of autocracy. This paper offers a constitutionalist response. The outlines of this answer can be found in the decades-old policy documents produced by a set of German émigré scholars during and in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War: Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse, and Otto Kirchheimer. The secret reports root constitutional stability in the creation of a framework for bounded partisan pluralist contestation among political parties that track the principal social and economic cleavages, and that is rooted within, and does not seek to overthrow, the underlying political economy. Second, the secret reports suggest a counter-narrative of the German Basic Law as creating a framework for political contestation that reinforces constitutional stability instead of undermining it.

Keywords: Weimar, Frankfurt School, Legal Theory, Constitutional Theory, Constitutional Design

Suggested Citation

Choudhry, Sujit, Resisting Democratic Backsliding: An Essay on Weimar, Self-Enforcing Constitutions, and the Frankfurt School (August 25, 2018). Global Constitutionalism, vol. 7, no. 1, 54-74 (2018).. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3238524

Sujit Choudhry (Contact Author)

Center for Constitutional Transitions ( email )

HOME PAGE: constitutionaltransitions.org

Center for Global Constitutionalism, WZB Berlin Social Science Center ( email )

Reichpietschufer 50
D-10785 Berlin, 10785
Germany

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