Weimar Moments: Transformations of the Democratic, Social, and Open State of Law

This paper will introduce the project framework. It describes the specific context which gave rise to the emergence of the Weimar constitutional paradigm characterized by the democratic, social, and open state of law; it will identify trajectories for the spread of this constitutional paradigm, both in a positive and a negative sense, and sketch out how it evolved upon being confronted with the neoliberal constitutional paradigm and re-interpreted by transformative constitutionalism.

Franz Neumann, Otto Kirchheimer, Hermann Heller: social-democratic theories in Weimar constitutional thought

This paper is divided into two parts. The first part analyzes the social Rechtsstaat strategy that was propounded by H.Heller and F.Neumann in Weimar. Heller and Neumann followed to an extent a common direction: they argued that, whereas the Weimar constitution did not establish socialism, a social Rechtsstaat (as opposed to a bourgeois Rechtsstaat) could be reached through this constitution. The second part presents Neumann’s shift since 1933, which is demonstrated by his critique to his own former strategy and to the stance of the Weimar SPD. This part delves also into O.Kirchheimer’s critique to the social Rechtsstaat strategy during the Weimar period. Finally, through this juxtaposition, this paper examines whether the social Rechtsstaat strategy could provide with an efficient defence of the Weimar Constitution and of the Weimar Republic in view of the contradiction that was played out in Weimar between political democracy and capitalist economy.

“The Constitution is only a Meaningless Piece of Paper.” Citizenship, Constitution and the Limits of Equality for Women in Weimar Germany and East- and Central Europe (1918-1933)

In my talk I show the discrepancies between the legal preexistence of fundamental rights in the Weimar Constitution and the historical meanings and experiences of women’s citizenship (or their absence) in the time of the Weimar years. Against the background of the granting women’s right to vote and the establishment of equal rights in the constitution, these rights only slowly gained material strength in application. It will also show that the “fundamental” weakness of the Weimar Constitution did not lead to a “failure” in gender equality to the extent that has often been assumed so far in women’s history but that the “Weimar moment” opened a space for negotiation of gender roles. While the talk will focus on Weimar Germany, it will also refer to similar events in some of the new states of East- and Central Europe which were established after World War I, where new constitutions were passed as well and women also fought for the translation of their constitutional rights into reality.

The Life and Times of “Economic Constitution”

Even though the concept of “Economic Constitution” has been used since the end of the 19th Century, its legal and prescriptive roots can be traced back to the Weimar context when the Constitution was struggling to be acknowledged as the primary source of law. My presentation delves into the “Economic Constitution” (Wirtschaftsverfassung) concept from a historical and comparative perspective. I aim to stress the different meanings of “Economic Constitution”, highlighting how and why they reflect competing constitutional mindsets of representative democracy and whether its use can still be helpful today.