Who's Afraid of Constitutional Populism? Central Europe in the Broader European Context

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Friday, October 23rd, 2020

Friday, October 23, 202010:00AM - 11:30AMOnline Event, Online Event
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Making and Remaking Central Europe Lecture Series


The rise of populism is a consequence of recent globally spreading economic and political crises and subsequent growing public distrust of technocracy and expert knowledge. Populist politics draws on public anger vis-a-vis growing economic insecurity and the general failure of anti-majoritarian institutions and their expertise to address issues of social justice and equality. However, populists mainly exploit the framework of constitutional democracy without dissolving and replacing it by a different political regime. Their politics thus remains subject of political contestations and opposition challenges in free elections. Nevertheless, some populists seized the opportunity to challenge this constitutional order and transformed into full-scale autocrats by reconstituting their power, such as the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who staged a coup during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis by eliminating parliament and granting himself power to indefinitely govern by decrees. Because Hungary is a member state of the EU, its legal and political transformation into constitutional autocracy represents a big constitutional question for the Union: “Can a dictatorial regime be a Member State of the EU?” This question needs to be addressed because of the rise of populism in other member states of the EU including countries of Central Europe. Ironically, some of them would not be able to pass the conditionality test if they applied for EU membership today.

Jiří Přibáň is professor of law and Director of the Centre of Law and Society at Cardiff University. He graduated from Charles University in Prague (1989) where he was appointed professor of legal theory, philosophy and sociology in 2002. In 2006, he was appointed professor of law at Cardiff University. He was also visiting professor or scholar at European University Institute in Florence, New York University, UC Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Pretoria, The Flemish Academy in Brussels and University of New South Wales, Sydney. Jiří Přibáň has published extensively in the areas of social theory and sociology of law, legal philosophy, constitutional and European comparative law, and theory of human rights. He is an editor of the Journal of Law and Society and a regular contributor to the Czech and international media.

Barbara J. Falk is Professor, Department of Defence Studies at the Canadian Forces College/Royal Military College of Canada, and author of The Dilemmas of Dissidence: Citizen Intellectuals and Philosopher Kings (2003) and Political Trials: Causes and Categories (2008). Her primary research interest is political trials, particularly in the persecution and prosecution of domestic dissent. She is currently writing a book on comparative political trials across the East-West divide during the early Cold War, examining the Rajk, Slánský, Dennis and Rosenberg trials. Prior to her academic career, she worked in the both the private and public sectors in human resources, labour relations and women’s issues. For more information, see: http://www.cfc.forces.gc.ca/136/277-eng.html.


Jiří Přibáň
Cardiff University

Barbara J. Falk
CERES, Canadian Forces College

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