Loading Events
  • This event has passed.

WORKSHOP: “Challenging Liberal Order: Populist Politics from the Nazis to Today” by Bernhard Schink

Feb 12, 2018 @ 10:00 am - Feb 14, 2018 @ 7:00 pm
UC Irvine, 1002 Humanities Gateway
Irvine, CA 92697 United States
+ Google Map

Challenging Liberal Order: Populist Politics from the Nazis to Today

A Workshop with Bernhard Schlink
UC Irvine, February 12-14, 2018, in HG 1002 and HG 1010

The challenges faced by the liberal democratic model in the 21st century have made constitutional theory into an urgent topic of global concern. Both the situation in the Ukraine and the electoral gains of the far right in Europe have frustrated hopes of an easy trajectory toward liberal democratic constitutional orders. If there was once the hope that the European Union would lead to the gradual expansion of liberal democracy, it is now clear that popular movements do not necessarily lead in a particular political direction. Instead, political legitimacy is linked to social and cultural norms, whose dynamics cannot be understood through a purely political or legal analysis. An understanding of these social and cultural norms, not as remnants of what has been rendered obsolete and backward by modernity and postmodernity, but as vital processes that foster new ideas and drive change, requires concerted efforts at reading them—as texts, as theory, and as practice—both sympathetically and critically.

Such analysis requires an interdisciplinary approach, in which not just legal and political questions, but also rhetorical issues of political representation and legitimacy are recognized as essential to the problem. If a constitution presents a people’s self-understanding of its political identity, this identity is not a naturally occurring structure, but the result of literary, cultural, and theological processes that follow a representational logic. Recent election gains by the far right in Hungary, France, and Germany, for instance, indicate that the interaction between law and representation is perhaps the key consideration in determining the success and failure of a particular constitutional structure. A proper discussion of constitutional theory today must consequently include scholars in diverse fields, such as law, political science, literature, and philosophy.

This new look at both constitutional theory and the way in which constitutions relate to notions of popular sovereignty and political representation is in one sense a response to the changing parameters of politics in the U.S., the Europe Union, and the former Soviet bloc. The rise of extremism in U.S. politics has had a de-stabilizing effect on many long-standing tenets of its liberal order. Similarly, Brexit and the rise of the far right in Europe indicate that its constitutional arrangements are perhaps inadequate to its situation. These developments warrant a re-evaluation of the basic tenets of political and constitutional theory as well as an attempt to think through constitutional issues in light of current cultural and political events.

This workshop will focus particularly on the recent rise of right-wing political movements in Germany and the U.S. and their meaning for constitutional theory. The experience of the rise of Nazism during the Weimar Republic made clear that it is insufficient to simply insist on liberal principles in the face of illiberal political movements. Accordingly, this workshop will examine contemporary German and U.S. politics and culture in light of the situation of the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. The goal will be to better understand the relationship between law, politics, and culture in our present situation in light of past experiences.

The workshop will be held on February 12-14, 2018, and will be led by David Pan and Bernhard Schlink, who, in addition to being a renowned writer (author of the international bestseller, The Reader) is also an emeritus professor of constitutional law at the Humboldt University, Berlin, and former judge on the constitutional court of North Rhein-Westphalia.

The first day will consist of seminar-style discussions with graduate students and faculty concerning Carl Schmitt’s writings on the crisis of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis from 1923 to 1933. While Schmitt developed an analysis of the weaknesses of liberalism in general, he also worked until 1932 to support the structures of the Weimar Republic. With the rise of the Nazis in 1933, however, he immediately began to support the Nazis and developed an analysis and justification of their rise to power. His work provides both a theoretical analysis of the vulnerabilities of liberalism and a political theory of fascist movements. Any analysis of extremist movements must confront his ideas, as they provide some of the most prominent analyses and justifications of their impact.

The second day will continue the seminar-style discussions to look at the cultural divisions within today’s Germany by considering the complexities of its minority politics. We will consider three different perspectives. First, Zafer Senocak looks at new models of minority identity in Germany, by considering the confluence of Turkish, Jewish, and German identity in the protagonist of his novel, Dangerous Relationship. Second, Günter Senkel’s and Feridan Zaimoglu’s Black Virginspresents examples of extremist Muslim women in Germany who set themselves against their surrounding German culture. Finally, Thilo Sarrazin’s Germany Abolishes Itself presents the right-wing argument that Germany culture is abolishing itself by embracing a politics of multiculturalism. These three texts chart the current rise of political extremism in Germany.

The final day will be a broader discussion of U.S. politics with a larger audience and additional faculty presentations. The initial discussion will consider the recent history of right-wing and left-wing movements in the U.S. We will first consider W Cleon Skousen’s The Five Thousand Year Leap, which has become a key text for the extreme right in the U.S. and outlines the way in which the U.S. was founded on Biblical principles that need to be adhered to in order to save itself from ruin. We will continue with a discussion of Stephen Bannon’s film, Battle for America, which casts U.S. politics as a populist movement against a political establishment. We will examine in particular Bannon’s influence on Donald Trump’s politics. Finally, we will consider David Graeber, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in their role as theoretical supporters of the Occupy Movement.

The workshop will conclude with a series of short, round-table presentations by Schlink and faculty from around the campus that will serve as an introduction to an interdisciplinary discussion of the relationship between law, politics, and culture.

Schedule of Events

February 12: Carl Schmitt and the Rise of the Nazis

Location: HG 1002

10 am – 12 pm: Seminar discussion

Carl Schmitt, Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage des heutigen Parlamentarismus [Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy] (1923) (Excerpts)

Lunch: 12-1 pm

1 pm – 3 pm: Seminar discussion

Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen [Concept of the Political] (1927) (Excerpts)

Coffee Break 3-3:30

3:30 pm – 5:30 pm: Seminar discussion

Carl Schmitt, Staat Bewegung Volk [State Movement People]  (1933)

(Supplemental reading: Mark Bray, Antifa: The Anti-fascist Handbook (2017) (Excerpts))

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Dinner

6:30 pm – 8 pm: Reception

February 13: Minority Politics in Contemporary Germany

Location: HG 1002

Lunch 12-1 pm

1 pm – 3 pm: Seminar discussion

Zafer Senocak, Gefaehrliche Verwandschaft [Dangerous Relationship] (1998)

Guenter Senkel and Feridan Zaimoglu, Schwarze Jungfrauen [Black Virgins] (2006).

Coffee break: 3-3:30 pm

3:30 pm – 5:30 pm: Seminar discussion

Thilo Sarrazin, Deutschland schafft sich ab [Germany Abolishes Itself] (2010). (Excerpts)

Manifesto for Germany: The Political Program of the Alternative for Germany (Excerpts)

(Supplementary reading: Jan-Werner Müller, “How to Deal with Populists,” in What is Populism?(2016))

5:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Dinner

6:30-8 pm: Viewing of Stephen K. Bannon, Battle for America with Dick Morris, 2010.

February 14: Anti-Liberalism Today: Sources of Extremist Politics in the U.S.

10 am -12 pm: Seminar discussion in HG 1002

W Cleon Skousen. The Five Thousand Year Leap. Salt Lake City, UT: Freemen Institute, 1981. (Excerpts) (Supplementary text: Jared A. Goldstein, “The Tea Party’s Constitution,” 88 Denv. U. L. Rev. 559 (2011).

12-1 pm: Lunch in HG 1002

1 pm – 3 pm: Seminar discussion in HG 1002

Stephen K. Bannon, Battle for America with Dick Morris, 2010.

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, New York Penguin, 2004. (excerpts)

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, “The Fight for ‘Real Democracy’ at the Heart of Occupy Wall Street: The Encampment in Lower Manhattan Speaks to a Failure of Representation”, Foreign AffairsSnapshot, 11 October 2011.

David Graeber, “Occupy Wall Street’s Anarchist Roots”, Al Jazeera, 29 November 2011.

Donald Trump, Inaugural Address, 20 January 2017.

3 pm – 3:30 pm: Coffee break in HG 1010

3:30 pm – 6 pm: Faculty Presentations and Public Discussion: “Extremism Today” in HG 1010

6 pm: Dinner reception in HG 1010


Feb 12, 2018 @ 10:00 am
Feb 14, 2018 @ 7:00 pm
Event Category:


UC Irvine
1002 Humanities Gateway
Irvine, CA 92697 United States
+ Google Map