Weimar: A Jurisprudence of Crisis

Weimar: A Jurisprudence of Crisis

Weimar: A Jurisprudence of Crisis

Weimar: A Jurisprudence of Crisis


This selection of the major works of constitutional theory during the Weimar period reflects the reactions of legal scholars to a state in permanent crisis, a society in which all bets were off. Yet the Weimar Republic's brief experiment in constitutionalism laid the groundwork for the postwar Federal Republic, and today its lessons can be of use to states throughout the world. Weimar legal theory is a key to understanding the experience of nations turning from traditional, religious, or command-and-control forms of legitimation to the rule of law.

Only two of these authors, Hans Kelsen and Carl Schmitt, have been published to any extent in English, but they and the others whose writings are translated here played key roles in the political and constitutional struggles of the Weimar Republic. Critical introductions to all the theorists and commentaries on their works have been provided by experts from Austria, Canada, Germany, and the United States. In their general introduction, the editors place the Weimar debate in the context of the history and politics of the Weimar Republic and the struggle for constitutionalism in Germany. This critical scrutiny of the Weimar jurisprudence of crisis offers an invaluable overview of the perils and promise of constitutional development in states that lack an entrenched tradition of constitutionalism.


We began work on the Weimar jurisprudence of crisis almost ten years ago, soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Our hope was that the Weimar debates would provide a unique vantage from which to survey states throughout the world struggling to embrace political democracy and a liberal legal culture. Weimar offers a dark but useful paradigm for states in which constitutionalism and the rule of law must confront lasting and entrenched antidemocratic and anti-liberal forces. Nations in which the state precedes the constitution face significantly different and perhaps more difficult paths toward constitutional government than nations, such as the United States, in which the constitution precedes the state.

We have been lucky in our collaborators, especially our lead translator, Belinda Cooper, who helped wrestle some extremely difficult texts into English. Our contributing editors gave generously of their knowledge and patience. Our colleagues, Michel Rosenfeld, Paul Shupack, and Charles Yablon, provided critical assistance at crucial moments in our work on the introduction. Susanne Leiterer's assistance on the technical apparatus was painstaking and invaluable.

We owe special thanks to the former dean of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Frank Macchiarola, for his support and for helping to provide precious time together in New York to work on the project. The Charney Program in International Law and the International Law Program, both of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, helped finance the translations.

Dorothea Muenchberg of the Humboldt University Faculty of Law Secretariat shouldered the immense burden of coordination with precision and kindness.

Edward Dimendberg, formerly of the University of California Press, was our persistent and encouraging editor. His enthusiasm for Weimar helped sustain many years of collaboration.

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