A Game of Values: Particular National Identities Awaken in Europe

“Winter is coming”

(George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones)

This article focuses on the relation between constitution and society, namely how the popular perception of identity and values can impact on constitutional democracy and its institutions, and how the reformulation of national identities can endanger the European project and constitutional democracy itself.

When national identities are (re)defined along cultural, ethnic or religious characteristics, there seems to be a “zero-sum game” between the constitutional recognition of these characteristics and liberal values that include equality and human rights. The dual movement of strengthening cultural, ethnic or religious characteristics and of weakening liberal values in many countries can be traced back, at least partly, to global phenomena like economic downturn and restructuring, the advance of the far-right and the crisis of the left, the movement of formerly extremist ideas into mainstream discourse, the call for authoritarian leaders. First, all these show resemblance to the interwar period. And second, because of the interconnectedness of national developments, it is not enough to look at the Hungarian or the Polish democratic backlash, Brexit or other events like the authoritarian turn in Turkey or the US presidential elections in isolation: I argue that a crucial factor in understanding “the zero-sum game” is to unearth the common features, in addition to the national peculiarities. This article raises the questions whether the emergent authoritarianism in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region may contain lessons for what is going on in Western Europe.

Transforming National Identities

All constitutional systems require the construction and definition of a constitutional ‘We’ in the name of whom the system talks and works ...

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