POSTS BY Paul Blokker

From legal to political constitutionalism?

While the developments in Poland and in Hungary clearly have to do with a move away from legal constitutionalism, I am not so sure about their moving towards a form of political constitutionalism, as prof. Adam Czarnota suggests. In my view, a key dimension of political constitutionalism is the observation that specific constitutional norms and rights are ultimately ‘essentially contestable’ as reasonable disagreement is an intrinsic part of democracy. Therefore, the understanding and interpretation of such norms and rights ought to remain part of an on-going political debate, rather than being one-sidedly interpreted by the judiciary. Such an open and inclusionary political debate ought to take place within the limits of the constitution, as a basic framework for resolving disagreements. And it ought to be grounded in the ideas of audi alteram partem and the equal weight of different views in the debate.

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Populist Constitutionalism

Populist engagement with constitution-making and constitutional reform forms a distinctive, and in significant ways worrying, tendency. Populism is explicitly present in the constitutional politics of the East-Central European countries of Hungary and Poland (but not reducible to East-Central Europe), and is causing important tensions in the European Union, which proclaims to be grounded in the […]

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“Vote Yes for a Safe Italy” or “Vote No to Defend the Constitution”: Italian Constitutional Politics between Majoritarianism and Civil Resistance

In the run-up to the constitutional referendum in October, the Italian government meets considerable resistance towards its plans for a comprehensive reform of the Constitution of 1948. Both Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Constitutional Reform Minister Maria Elena Boschi regularly sustain that in case of a ‘No’ vote, chaos will rule. Public debate seems trapped in a Manichean game between yes-proponents that accuse the opposition of conservatism, and no-proponents that accuse the government of authoritarian leanings.

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Cultural majorities, constitutional essentials, and cosmopolitan citizenship

Liav Orgad’s idea of a two-stage process of the regulation of immigration and access to citizenship in The Cultural Defense of Nations appears sensible and on first sight largely agreeable. But a more careful positioning of the argument regarding democratic theory and sociological understandings of nationalism brings out aspects that problematize some of its key assumptions and that reveal a risk of counter-productivity. In this, the argument might be less original than claimed and the specific version of a liberal theory of cultural defense less fit for socio-culturally complex democratic societies, in particular within the European context. I will briefly touch upon three dimensions that seem to me problematic: the notions of majority culture and cultural defense; the notion of constitutional identity as used in the book; and the problem of constitutional populism.

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Systemic infringement action: an effective solution or rather part of the problem?

Kim Lane Scheppele suggests a comprehensive, holistic approach to deal with prominent challenges to the basic principles of the European Union. I very much sympathize with this idea, but believe a purely legal approach in itself is not sufficient (and might even be counter-productive).

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