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Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University

The Defence of Constitutionalism

Or the Czech Question in Post-National Europe

Distributed for Karolinum Press, Charles University

The Defence of Constitutionalism

Or the Czech Question in Post-National Europe

More than a century after the publication of Czech politician Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk’s study The Czech Question, Czech politics—instead of the nation’s historical struggle for survival and independence—has become a pragmatic question of democratic constitutionalism and civility. Originally published in major Czech newspapers, these essays on contemporary European politics demonstrate that this new understanding involves both technical questions of power making and critical questions of its meaning. Democracy, Přibáň shows, is the process of permanent self-correction. It possesses both the capacity to respond to unexpected problems and crises and intrinsic tensions between principled arguments and everyday administrative processes. Defending constitutionalism, therefore, draws on principles of civil rights and freedoms, limited government, and representative democracy, the validity and persuasive force of which are at stake not only in the Czech Republic, but also in the post-national European Union and our global society at large.

280 pages | 6 x 8 | © 2018

Václav Havel Series

Law and Legal Studies:

Political Science:


“Přibáň is a constitutional scholar who was involved in the former Czechoslovakia's transition to democracy in 1989. This book is a collection of essays written during the last five years that bring together his thoughts on European and Czech politics and culture. The chapters reflect the turbulent climate of the past decade as financial and economic crises gave rise to populist movements questioning European integration and the liberal democratic order. Populist politicians have used Europe to rally nativist sentiments and advance the argument that European integration threatens national identity and values. For Přibáň, this is a false dichotomy. European institutions help safeguard the national constitutional order. Přibáň expresses concern about the political developments in the Czech Republic and the actions of politicians who question the country’s engagement in the European Union. Politicians in the Czech Republic are willing to reject the post-1989 arrangements and have implemented new rules that limit the independence of the courts, prosecutors, and the police. The European Union could and should be a defensive bulwark against such illiberal measures. Although the book mostly analyzes developments in the Czech Republic, the writings also shed light on populist challenges in other democracies. Recommended.”

P. Kurzer, University of Arizona | Choice

Table of Contents

Jiří Přibáň’s Socratic Warnings (Petr Pithart)
Note to the Reader
1 Czechs in Europe
The Czech Question in Post-national Society
The Poverty of Czech Euroscepticism
The Czech Presidency of the EU
European Borders
Endless Europe
EU – War Child, Victim of Peace?
The Union Today Doesn’t Know What it is, Hence its Crisis
Greece – State of Emergency
2 Democratic Constitutionalism
The Cold Lies of the State
Election Carnival
Waiting for a Leader?
Depoliticisation – A Czech Dream of Peace and Tranquillity
The Disintegration of the Public Sphere
Where Did the People Go?
3 Parliamentary Democracy
The Age of Political Uncertainty
The Defence of Party Politics
4 Liberty and her People
Militant Democracy
Hunger Strike
Social Citizenship
People, or Population?
5 Political Thought in a Global Society
The Crisis and its Criticism
For Others Rights, for Himself Duties
Sunken Islands of Positive Deviance?
Democracy is a Process of Permanent Self-correction
Czeching Wales

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