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13 - 14 November 2018

Constitutional Resilience

How Can a Democratic Constitution Survive an Autocratic Majority?


Authoritarianism has been undergoing a reinvention in recent years. It no longer attacks democracy and the rule of law up front but instead tries to adopt the language and even (at least nominally) the institutions of democratic constitutionalism to promote its autocratic aims from within.

The two EU Member States where this new-school authoritarianism is most advanced are Hungary and Poland: Popular elections are being held; frantic law-making is taking place; constitutional and other courts keep handing down judgments – but each of these democratic and rule of law institutions have been successfully turned into tools of a self-proclaimed, rawly majoritarian “will of the people“.

From the perspective of Germany, two questions arise: What lessons do these developments hold in terms of distinctiveness between constitutionalism and this new sort of autocracy? What kind of constitutional or institutional changes — both in legislation and law enforcement — may be helpful to make constitutional backsliding less hard to prevent?

The workshop aims to study the activities of the governments in emerging autocratic systems and the respective constitutional rules and conventions that were or were not in place to prevent or hinder democratic backsliding, and to compare them with the German legal and constitutional system in order to sharpen our distinctiveness and to identify possible deficiencies.

WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Hardenbergstraße 32, 10623 Berlin, 9th Floor
13 - 14 November 2018
Kriszta Kovács (WZB Center for Global Constitutionalism/ELTE)
Mattias Kumm (WZB Center for Global Constitutionalism/NYU)
Maximilian Steinbeis (Verfassungsblog)
Gábor Attila Tóth (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Hilde Ottschofski
hilde.ottschofski [at]
Registration deadline
Please register until 31.10.2018.

Please note:

Due to restricted capacities, the number of accepted registrations for this event must be limited.

The results of the workshop will be published and made accessible for political and legal decision makers shortly after the event: The presentations by the expert rapporteurs and a number of discussion contributions will be published as an online symposium on Verfassungsblog.

This event is jointly organized by

Logo WZB GlobCon
Logo Verfassungsblog

This event is sponsored by

Logo Stiftung Mercator