What Constitutions Endure

von Maximilian Steinbeis

Let us take a moment and remember how one year ago on this day our world looked like: Brexit? Wouldn’t happen, most of us firmly believed, with the fateful referendum days away. A putsch against Erdogan? No-one saw that coming. President Trump? Just a nightmarish fantasy then. Seemingly more realistic and even scarier, though: a President Le Pen (the name Macron was familiar only to some experts then). In Austria, some began to suspect that the presidential election would have to be repeated, but not yet how its result would turn out.

One year. It feels like ten. At my age I am used to it being the other way round…

This week I had the pleasure of attending a workshop in the rooms of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, organized by the Indian lawyer Menaka Guruswamy and Philipp Dann from Humboldt University, who had brought together a few dozen very smart people from all over the world to discuss the question: When do democratic constitutions endure? When will they break? How fragile is the normative order in which we live?

There seems to be an unprecedented global stress test for constitutional endurance going on right now. We still don’t know how far Trump will go in doing damage to the constitution before he will leave office. We don’t know what use Macron will make of his unheard-of amount of power. We don’t know what shape the UK constitution will take as Theresa May and her successors drive their country further down the Brexit road. It will take some time until we hold the all these test results in our hands, and while we nervously prowl about the waiting room, we cannot help speculating ...

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