Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Prof. Dr. Philipp Dann

Varieties of constitutionalism: Contestations of liberalism in comparative constitutional law

Liberal constitutionalism is under pressure. The wave of transitions to constitutional democracy and market economy in the 1990s marked the end of the cold war but not the end of history. Today, economic crises, increasing inequalities, the rise of non-liberal powers and the resurgence of populism and nationalism pose challenges to liberal constitutionalism. Our German-Brazilian project proposes to investigate these challenges from the perspective of comparative constitutional law. We
seek to map contemporary varieties of constitutionalism and to assess contestations of, and alternatives to, liberal constitutionalism in Germany, Brazil and the respective regional contexts. The project thus intervenes in global debates in the field of comparative constitutional law and contributes a legal perspective to broader discussions about contestations of liberalism. 

The project is funded by DFG and its Brazilian equivalent CAPES. It is led by principal investigators Dr. Michael Riegner and Prof. Philipp Dann at Humboldt University Berlin and Prof. Conrado Hübner Mendes at Universidade de São Paulo. It brings together a total of 26 researchers from 16 institutions in Germany and Brazil. The collaboration includes three plenary meetings, smaller workshops, research stays and joint conference panels. 
The project pursues three main objectives: The first is to contribute to the research on varieties of constitutionalism by developing a comparative typology that enables us to categorize constitutional orders along several dimensions, to identify different types of constitutionalism, and to capture variation within the liberal type. In particular, we seek to clarify whether transformative constitutionalism – a concept often used to characterize the Brazilian constitutional order – should be conceptualized as an alternative to liberal constitutionalism, or whether the two are variants of the same constitutional type. The second objective is to assess selected contestations of liberal
constitutionalism in Brazil and Germany in their regional contexts. We will compare what normative alternatives are advanced and whether past and present contestations result(ed) in an alternative regime, or in the adaptation and transformation of liberal constitutionalism. The third objective is to theorize the role that paradigmatic actors, or “protagonists”, play in varieties of constitutionalism and contestations of liberalism. If the individual is the protagonist of liberal constitutionalism, are there alternative actors that compete for the main role in the varieties of constitutionalism, namely collective actors like social movements or corporations? 

Thematically, our research will concentrate on three areas: democratic, economic and open constitutionalism. These three areas will be connected in a cross-cutting thematic study on the role of the corporation in the varieties of constitutionalism. This study will assess whether the corporation plays a paradigmatic role in economic, democratic and/or open constitutionalism in Brazil and Germany, situate the corporation in the typology of the varieties of constitutionalism, and evaluate the role it plays in contemporary contestations of liberal constitutionalism. 

Contact: Dr. Michael Riegner,