German Law Journal Symposium on Populism and Constitutionalism, LSE, United Kingdom, 25-26 April 2019


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On 25th and 26th April 2019 the German Law Journal organizes, in cooperation with Cambridge University Press, a symposium on Populism and Constitutionalism, hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The programme is available now on the Journal’s site at CUP. Registration is also open. There is no conference fee. On the back of this symposium, we are also proud to announce a unique double special issue (that’s right, two special issues) on the same topic of ‘Populism and Constitutionalism’, which will come out in May 2019, so stay tuned!

Registration is free to attend, and participants can attend either or both days. Advance registration is required.


The recent years has seen a quick rise of populist political narratives and parties throughout the world – with a concomitant rise in attention for the phenomenon by politicians, policy-makers, and academics. This conference focuses on the interaction between populism and constitutionalism. It asks what populism ‘is’, categorises its different articulations and flavours, and asks to what extent populism can be accommodated (or not) by the framework of constitutionalism that has typified modern politics in Europe and beyond. How does constitutionalism – with its commitment to the rule of law, democracy, and free speech – understand populist politics? Can constitutionalism constrain populist politics, or is it partly to blame for its rise? How do (dis)information, voter behaviour and social movements operate within the structures of constitutionalism? Does populism have the potential to transform modern-day political structures? And if so, in what way? 

These are not easy questions, and it is the conviction of the organisers that the best way to tackle difficult questions is by looking at them from different perspectives. The conference will do so by allowing the discussion to take place between different actors. The keynote address will be held by Prof. Nicola Lacey CBE, who will be speaking on ‘Populism and the Rule of Law’.  

The morning sessions of the conference will be devoted to understand how populism operates – how it has emerged historically, how it can be explained in anthropological terms, and how (if) populism can be defined. We will also look at the way in which political economy, mass media, and social movements have been used to express, or, conversely, challenge the rise of populism.

The afternoon session of the conference is devoted to a more precise legal discussion of the interaction between constitutionalism and populism. The German Law Journal is proud to present an unprecedented ‘double special issue’ on the topic, due to come out in May 2019. We have invited the editors of these two issues – which will define scholarship in the area for years to come – to offer their insights. To what extent does populism challenge the very basis of constitutionalism? Can it be accommodated? 

The final part of the conference is devoted to a celebration. This conference marks not just the start of the cooperation between the German Law Journal and Cambridge University Press, but also the 20th anniversary of the German Law Journal – a project that was dreamt up by two friends, and now has become one of the most influential journals in German, International, Comparative and European Law. Time to reminisce about the project, and how the world has changed since 1999. 

Provisional conference programme

Thursday 25th April: 
5.30 – 7.00pm Keynote Address by Prof Nicola Lacey CBE, ‘Populism and the Rule of Law’

The keynote is followed by a drinks reception.

Friday 26th April: 
09.00 – 09.15 Coffee & registration 

09.15 – 11:00  Explaining Populism

  • Dr. Insa Koch (LSE Law), ‘Towards an Anthropology of Populism’

  • Anton Jäger (Cambridge) ‘Ulysses Untied: Populism and Constitutionalism in the Age of Liberal Consensus’ 

  • Dr. Paul Blokker (Charles University, Prague), ‘Varieties of Populism’

11:00 Coffee Break

11:20 – 12:30 Populism in action

  • Dr. Eva Polonska-Kimunguyi (LSE Media), ‘Political Communication, Social Media, and Identity Politics’

  • Dr. Manuela Caiani (Sant’Anna, Pisa), ‘Understanding Populism in Time of Multiple Crises’

12:30 Lunch

13:15 – 14.30: Populism and Constitutionalism 

  • Dr. Oran Doyle (Trinity), ‘Populist Constitutionalism and Constituent Power’

  • Prof. Gábor Halmai (EUI),’ Populism, Authoritarianism, and Constitutionalism’

14.30 – 15:45 Law and the Limits of Populism?

  • Prof. Bojan Bugaric (Sheffield), ‘The Role of Law in Limiting Populism’

  • Prof. Eleanor Spaventa (Bocconi), ‘Populism and Constitutional Identity’

15.45 Coffee Break

16.15 - 17.00 Celebrating 20 years of the GLJ with Russell Miller and Peer Zumbansen