The 2019 Telos-Paul Piccone Institute Conference
20 Jun 2019 – 21 Jun 2019

Europe’s Constitutional Challenges as a Problem of Culture

Venue: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3rd floor, Trajekte-Tagungsraum
Organized by Eva Geulen (ZfL / HU Berlin), David Pan (UC Irvine)
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The Telos-Paul Piccone Institute in collaboration with the ZfL

Constitutional structures in Europe are being tested by populist movements that have begun to question the liberal consensus upon which the European Union was built. If a constitution should embody the will of the people as that which establishes the overarching framework for legal order, what happens if this democratic will begins to reject certain liberal principles such as an independent judiciary, freedom of expression, or the rule of law? This quandary indicates that the basis of the European Union cannot lie in economic arrangements nor in the gradual expansion of legal norms. Rather, cultural attitudes will be fundamental for determining Europe’s future because current problems revolve around the character of the popular will.

An analysis of these issues requires an interdisciplinary approach, in which not just legal and political questions but also rhetorical issues of political representation and legitimacy are recognized as essential to the problem. If a constitution presents a people’s self-understanding of its political identity, this identity is not a naturally occurring structure but the result of literary, cultural, and theological processes that follow a representational logic. The interaction between law and representation is perhaps the key consideration in determining the success of a particular constitutional structure.

This conference brings together scholars from diverse fields, such as law, political science, literature, and philosophy in order to discuss not just legal and political questions but also the ways in which political communities represent themselves in Europe and beyond.

The Telos-Paul Piccone Institute
The Telos-Paul Piccone Institute develops new ideas for addressing the challenges of modernity worldwide through the resources of particular communities and traditions. Centered around a unique international group of scholars and practitioners, the Institute combines critical analyses
of issues of modernity with a sense for alternative approaches in order to create innovative policy ideas. At the same time, the focus on communities and traditions grounds this vision in terms of local perspectives and decision-making.

Through regular, international conferences, the Institute promotes scholars working in all parts of the world in order to develop a unique perspective on current events, including issues of democracy, authoritarianism, cross-cultural conflict, the relation of religion and politics, economic crises, and the contemporary meaning of technology and the natural sciences. The resulting research is made available through the affiliated journal Telos, which has maintained an international reputation as a source of intellectual innovation since its inception in 1968.


Thursday, 20 Jun 2019

2–4 pm

  • Eva Geulen (ZfL / HU Berlin): Introduction
  • Paul Kahn (Yale): Law as Representation: A Failing Faith
  • Marcia Pally (NYU/ HU Berlin): Politics: Embedded in the »Logic« of the Culture: A US case study


4.30–6.30 pm

  • Adam Webb (Johns Hopkins, Nanjing): Supranational Governance and the Problem of the »Dignified Constitution«
  • Aryeh Botwinick (Temple, Philadelphia): Contra Originalism: The Elusiveness of the Text


Friday, 21 Jun 2019

9–11.30 am

  • Russell Berman (Stanford): Constituting the Nation in Fontane’s »Vor dem Sturm«
  • Zaal Andronikashvili (ZfL Berlin): Constitution vs Basic Order: Cultural Apories of a Nation State
  • David Pan (UC Irvine): The Political Meaning of German National Identity

1.30–4 pm

  • Andrej Medushevsky (HSE Moscow): Global Constitutionalism: Transformation of European Identity and the Meaning of the Populist Reaction
  • Matthias Schwartz (ZfL Berlin): Another Europe? Constitution and State from a Ukrainian Perspective
  • Geminello Preterossi (Salerno): Europe as a Space for Neoliberal Depoliticization
  • General Discussion


Event flyer

Image above: A view of the trailing hemisphere of Jupiter's ice-covered satellite Europa. Taken on September 7, 1996 by NASA's Galileo orbiter. Credits: Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.