Publication details

Common Good Constitutionalism and the Challenge of the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Central European Perspective

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Year of publication 2021
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Description In the last decade, many competing accounts of constitutionalism have been presented. Legal, political, societal, civic and democratic constitutionalisms were contrasted vis-a-vis the failures of post-communist transitions (Blokker). Moreover, there is an even deeper division between ancient and modern (McIlwain), as well as negative and positive, constitutionalisms (Barber). In this paper, I will try to enrich this conceptualization by considering the recent proposal of common good constitutionalism (Vermeule, Casey), which continues the tradition of ancient constitutionalism and is overtly positive. From the Central European perspective, the concept of the common good seems to be Janus-faced; the ambivalence of our attitude can be explained by persisting historical memories. Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes usually stressed the necessity to sacrifice personal welfare in favor of the general good, which created a deep distrust towards any value transcending individual interests. On the other hand, the absence of the concept of the common good in the awareness of the post-communist man has contributed to the disastrous management of the Covid-19 pandemic in countries such as the Czech Republic. Therefore, we intuitively oppose this concept, but confronted with the challenges of our time, we feel that we need something like this. In light of these challenges, I will show, firstly, that the best thinkers, who thematized the concept of the common good, offer a useful distinction between the common good and its counterfeits (Simon). By distinguishing these concepts, it is possible to respond to a deep worry about the authoritarian implications of this concept. Secondly, tackling new challenges requires from us to learn from the past, which will allow us to clarify several conceptual points (e.g., the difference and interpenetration between common utility and the common good, the obedience to political authority as interdependent with the attainment of the common good). Consequently, this theoretical clarification enables us to see the problems connected with the management of the covid-19 pandemic in a new light, particularly the intricacies of 'executive underreach' (Pozen, Scheppele), since in some Central European countries, we also witnessed a lack of appropriate action by their governments.
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