Review Essay: M. Kotzur (Ed.), Peter Häberle on Constitutional Theory: Constitution as Culture and the Open Society of Constitutional Interpreters

Published date01 September 2019
Date01 September 2019
Subject MatterReview Essay
Indian Journal of Public
65(3) 769–790, 2019
© 2019 IIPA
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Review Essay
M. Kotzur (Ed.), Peter Häberle on Constitutional Theory: Constitution
as Culture and the Open Society of Constitutional Interpreters. Baden-
Baden, Germany: Nomos, 2018, 323 pp.,84.
A European Constitutional and Public Law Scholar
Professor Peter Häberle is among the most prominent constitutional and public law
scholars in Europe today and this volume is the first full-length book in English
translating a selection of his works from German.1 It will help integrate global
debate on constitutionalism and generate new debates in constitutional and public
law scholarship in the English-speaking world.2 This is just the beginning of explor-
ing his works whose corpus is huge running into thousands of pages (50 books,
more than 150 major articles in leading law journals, originally in German), but also
translated into Spanish, Italian,3 Portuguese, French, Greek, Japanese, Korean, etc.
Path-breaking works are not only the articles translated—like the 1972 conference
on ‘Fundamental rights in the welfare state’ (Grundrechte im Leistungsstaat) debated
in the German Association of Public Law Scholars—but also some very dense books
since the PhD-thesis on the clause of ‘Essential Content’ of fundamental rights in the
German Basic Law (Die Wesensgehaltsgarantie des Art. 19 Abs. 2 GG, 1961, 1983),4
migrated into the Fundamental Rights Charter of the European Union, the academic
habilitation treatise on public interest as a legal problem (Öffentliches Interesse als
juristisches Problem, 1970, 2006), the first collection of essays on ‘Constitution
as a public process’ (Verfassung als öffentlicher Prozess, 1978, 1996), the main
theoretical work that conceives the ‘Doctrine of Constitution as Science of Culture’
(Verfassungslehre als Kulturwissenschaft, 1982, 1998), the studies on ‘Comparative
Law in the Force Field of the Constitutional State’ (Rechtsvergleichung im Kraftfeld
des Verfassungsstaates), the highly condensed theories on ‘European Constitutional
Doctrine’ (Europäische VerfassungslPehre 2002, 2016); ‘The Cooperative Constitu-
tional State—from Culture and as Culture: Preliminary Studies on a Universal
Constitutional Doctrine’ (Der kooperative Verfassungsstaataus Kultur und als Kultur:
Vorstudien zu einer universalen Verfassungslehre, 2013), ‘Constitutional justice—
Constitutional court procedure’ (VerfassungsgerichtsbarkeitVerfassungsprozessrecht,
2014), ‘Comparative constitutional theory and constitutional practice: Last writings
and discussions’ (Vergleichende Verfassungstheorie und Verfassungspraxis.: Letzte
Schriften und Gespräche, 2016) and finally ‘The culture of peace—Subject of a
770 Review Essay
universal constitutional doctrine’ (Die ‘Kultur des Friedens’Thema der universalen
Verfassungslehre, 2017). Other smaller booklets examined topics of constitutional
culture such as ‘The Image of Man within the Constitutional State’ (Das Menschenbild
im Verfassungsstaat, 2008), ‘The Sunday as constitutional principle’ (Der Sonntag
als Verfassungsprinzip, 2006), ‘National Flags: Civic Democratic Identity Elements
and International Symbols for Recognition’ (Nationalflaggen: Bürgerdemokratische
Identitätselemente und internationale Erkennungssymbole, 2008); ‘National anthems
as elements of cultural identity of the Constitutional State’ (Nationalhymnen als
kulturelle Identitätselemente des Verfassungsstaates, 2007); ‘The Memorial Culture
in the Constitutional State’ (Die Erinnerungskultur im Verfassungsstaat, 2001),
Pedagogical Letters to a Young Constitutional Lawyer (Pädagogische Briefe an einen
jungen Verfassungsjuristen, 2010) and others.
Professor Häberle has marked the boundary between legislation and con-
stitutional adjudication, on the one hand, and law and politics, on the other, as
interpreted by the Federal Constitutional Court (Kommers & Miller, 2012).
He has often criticised the German Constitutional Court’s ‘distinction between
the will of the people and the will of the state as merely the nineteenth-century
division between society and state parading in new and ill-fitting garb’, but he
is one of the authors most welcomed and even quoted by constitutional judges
(Collings, 2015). In 1983 he replaced Gerhard Leibholz in the direction of the
German Yearbook of Public Law (Jahrbuch des öffentlichen Rechts) until 2014.
He is a very well-known and respected scholar all over Europe, but also in Latin
America with seven doctorates honoris causa (among 24 worldwide awards), the
highest badge of honour from Brazil, the Cruzeiro do Sul, many other decorations
and medals in Europe, scientific awards such as the Héctor-Fix-Zamudio-award
for international scientific cooperation (Mexico City) or the Max Planck research
award for scientific cooperation, among others.5 At the University of St. Gallen
where he was a permanent visiting professor, a Peter-Häberle-Stiftung has been
established (ibid.). In Granada and Brasilia ‘Häberle-Institutes’, including librar-
ies have been founded (ibid.). There was a pictorial biography released on his
eightieth birthday in 2014 (Häberle, 2014).
The following pages offer a summary of the translated works that cover nearly
five decades from 1972 to 2018. The purpose is to help to get access to a sort of
German European Guru of constitutional thought that has a very original style and
methodology. The way is an attempt of synthesis through relevant quotations with
some explanations of the German and European contexts and some perspectives
for an Indian reception.
The whole of these ideas can be read as a theoretical framework for the world
of constitutions and constitutionalisms which allows his ideas to be fertilised in
the Indian context. The topics start from the ‘German surrogate of social rights’
(1972) and the concept of ‘Open Society of Constitutional Interpreters’ (1975),
moving towards a ‘Constitutional theory of human dignity’ (1987), and to a syn-
thesis of Häberle’s cultural science-based constitutional theory (2006), it then
goes back to the interpretation of constitutional preambles (1979) and closes with
an original contribution of the ‘Jurisprudence of European Law’ (2018).

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