Abstract 9/15: Elisa Bertolini (Bocconi University Milan) – Democracy and the State of Exception: The Italian Experience

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The Italian experience offers some interesting profiles when dealing with the state of exception and emergency situations. The 1948 Constitution – as her predecessor, the Albertine Statute of 1848 – does not provide for any emergency section. However, she provides for instruments to enact whenever a situation of necessity and urgency occurs (mainly the law decree, at Article 77, the powers assigned by the Parliament to the Government in case of war, at Article 78 and the substitute powers of the government, when necessary, of Municipalities, Provinces, Metropolitan Cities and Regions, at Article 120).

The fact that the Albertine Statute did not provided for an emergency section does not have to lead to the conclusion that an emergency situation (or, to use a formulation closer to the French doctrine, a stato d’assedio, état de siège) has ever been declared. The riots in Milan in 1898 or the earthquake in Messina in 1908 witnessed the enforcement of the wartime criminal military code, showing that the Italian legal system accepted the possibility of a legitimate use of extraordinary powers – even against the law – in order to preserve the State and of the legal and social order. The very same aim led King Victor Emmanuel III to appoint Mussolini as head of the government in the aftermath of the March on Rome in 1922.

In the democratic history, other situations happened that required the resort to some sort of emergency power, namely the passing of the legislative decree no. 625/1979, against the left-wing terrorism (the so-called Brigate Rosse, Red Brigades) – strengthening the police powers and compressing suspect rights – and the law no. 225/1992 establishing the Protezione Civile (Civil Defence). Under this second law, the government can pass civil defence orders to handle emergencies. Here the intent seemed more to provide for procedures and structures able to confront emergencies and to make the developments predictable rather than just to assign extraordinary powers.

Besides these ad hoc interventions, the Constitution provides for the instrument of the law decree that the government can enact in situations of extreme necessity and urgency (no further specification on the meaning of the two words is given). The abuse of this instrument made by the governments until the mid-1990s – due mainly to the weaknesses of the parliamentary executive innate in the extremely fragmented party system, the proportional representation and the subsequent coalition governments – shifted the balance from a parliamentary democracy to a so to speak governmental democracy. The long-awaited intervention of the Constitutional Court with the decision no. 360/1996 finally sanctioned this practice as unconstitutional, as in violation of both the prerogatives of Parliament – as the main law-making body – and the certainty of law.

Beside the abuse of the law decree, a more recent practice has been to resort to emergency instruments even in situations not properly of emergency – since not of unpredictable nature – but rather just difficult to handle, such as the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin or the 2015 Expo in Milan (just to mention a few). In such circumstances the connection to the extraordinary character of the situation is lacking; nevertheless, the government exercises all the same emergency powers.

Furthermore, the present-day economic crisis has provided for further remarks on the twisting of the Italian form of government (and of the form of State, according to some scholars) in situations of emergency, namely with respect to the role of the President of the Republic and of the Constitutional Court.

The active engagement of President Napolitano in the last crisis of government (starting from the Berlusconi’s one in 2011) and as a strong advisor of governments seem to have proved right Esposito’s theory according to which – since the president is given the same powers as the monarch in the constitutional monarchy – it is up to him to actively intervene in situations of emergency. The Constitutional Court too rises some concerns, with respect mainly to a certain number of decisions marking a straightforward intervention in the competence of Parliament and government, when balancing spending review and rights’ protection.

It is convenient to consider further this twisting in the balance of powers in the light of the separation of powers and on the qualification of the Italian present-day situation as within the constitutional legal order of within the emergency.

#StatEx2017 – Paperroom now open

As the conference on state of exception approaches, the first papers are available in the conference paperroom, beginning with Elisa Bertolinis text on the Italian experience of democracy and state of exception. You can access the paperroom here.

Please take note, that the papers are draft versions for conference use only. They may not be cited elsewhere. Comments are welcome.

Ende des Ausnahmezustandes in Frankreich?

Heute endet in Frankreich de jure der Ausnahmezustand. Nachdem die Maßnahmen seit dem 13.11.2015 in Kraft waren, beginnt damit ein neues Kapitel in der politischen Gestaltung der öffentlichen Sicherheit des Landes.

Was der Ausnahmezustand für Frankreich in den letzten gut zwei Jahren gebracht hat, ob die neuen Gesetze in der Lage sind, Sicherheit und Freiheit angemessen auszubalancieren und ob schließlich der Ausnahmezustand ein neues Paradigma demokratischen Regierens zu werden droht, dazu und zu vielen weiteren Fragen hat sich Matthias Lemke heute in zwei Interviews mit NDR Info / WDR 5 (Mittagsecho) und dem SRF (Echo der Zeit) geäußert. In der Gesamtschau zeichnet sich ein wesentlicher Aspekt sehr deutlich ab: Vom Ende des Ausnahmezustandes kann keine Rede sein. Treffender für die Charakterisierung der gegenwärtigen Entwicklung ist vielmehr der Begriff einer Normalisierung der Ausnahme.

Sobald die Podcasts zu beiden Sendungen vorliegen, werden sie im Artikel über die Senderlogos verlinkt.

Abstract 8/15: Anne-Marlen Engler (Humboldt University Berlin) – German Refugee Shelters

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Carl Schmitt shaped the idea of a conjunction of sovereignty and the state of exception. Whereas Schmitt conceptualizes the state of exception as a state of exception, Giorgio Agamben broadens the concept and introduces a permanent state of exception as experienced in the camp – which he thinks of as the nomos of modernity. Within the camp, the sovereign rules over the inhabitants by way of reducing them to naked life. However, the state of exception is by no means a dictatorship; it is a lawless space [1].

My research project queries if German refugee shelters can be described as such lawless spaces in which the state of exception has become a quotidian reality. When arriving at the emergency shelters, the refugees have already undergone a first step of an integration by process [2]: they have been registered by the German authorities. Furthermore, in theory, they have access to human rights as well as German law. However, reports about detentions in mass shelters which last for months or abuses by the security personnel seem to confirm a situation which the American academic Ayten Gündoğdu has called “Rightlesness in an Age of Rights“. My research project wants to identify to what degree the refugees find themselves in “a bureaucratic situation similar to Kafkas castle” [3] and whether their access to law is hindered by arbitrary actions of the private shelter companies. My research work is based on the idea that the concept of the state of exception cannot convincingly explain the situation in the camps since it does not consider the coexistence of a legal regulation and a de facto lawlessness.

In the Colloquium “Ausnahmezustand. Eine Bestandsaufnahme”, I will present the first empirical results of my research project. In a pilot study, I have started to collect data with the help of structured interviews and field reports. The research field is an emergency shelter in a former airport in Berlin Neukölln which accommodates 1450 refugees at the moment. Orienting towards my research question, I interviewed four different status groups (social workers, refugees, lawyers and administration workers); special focus will be on the interviews with refugees as they are the ones affected by German housing politics.

[1] Agamben, Ausnahmezustand, S. 62.

[2] Luhmann, Legitmität durch Verfahren, S.94f.

[3] Gündoğdu, Rightlessness in an Age of Rights, S. 203.

Ende des Ausnahmezustandes in Frankreich – Interview mit der dpa

In einem Gespräch mit der Deutschen Presseagentur (dpa) hat sich Matthias Lemke zur morgen (1.11.) anstehenden Aufhebung des Ausnahmezustandes in Frankreich geäußert:

„Für den deutschen Politikwissenschaftler Matthias Lemke, der derzeit in Paris arbeitet und sich mit dem Ausnahmezustand in Demokratien befasst, steckt hinter dieser „Form des Nicht-Ausstiegs“ politisches Kalkül. „Ich glaube, für Regierungen unserer Zeit ist Sicherheit ein ganz zentrales Motiv, an dem sich auch Legitimität bemisst“, sagt er. Ein Ausstieg aus dem Ausnahmezustand ist für die Verantwortlichen riskant – sie kämen in Bedrängnis, falls kurz darauf ein neuer Anschlag geschieht. Macrons Vorgänger Hollande hatte im Sommer 2016 auch schon ein Ende des Ausnahmezustands angepeilt – und machte dann nach dem Anschlag von Nizza eine Kehrtwende.“

Der vollständige Text von Sebastian Kunigkeit ist heute unter der Überschrift „Ausnahmezustand in Frankreich: Ende ohne Entwarnung“ über die dpa versandt worden.

Abstract 7/15: Hanno Balz (Johns Hopkins University) – The undeclared State of Emergency during the ‘German Autumn’ 1977

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When Carl Schmitt wrote about the „emergency“ („Ernstfall“) as being constitutive for the ultimate dualism of friend and foe, he outlined a theory of the state of emergency. Such emergency was repeatedly being invoked during the debate on terrorism in West Germany in the 1970s.

During that decade, the conflict between the Red Army Faction and the West German state proved to be a paradigm for the growing political polarization of communications in German society. It can be said, the terrorism-debate was the struggle over the state of the nation, and so the discoursive, political and moral boundaries were heavily disputed.

Both sides of the confrontation were also engaging in specific performances/performative acts that adressed a wider public – it was all about a demonstration of power. More than that, it showed that Carl Schmitt’s notion of political decisionism comes to bear on the reality of the states’ dealing with terrorism as well as with the terrorists’ “propaganda of the deed”.

Often the reactions from the West German executive authority were called an “undeclared state of emergency”. However, in political discourse of that time “Ausnahmezustand” became a frequently used term that implied a level of wishful thinking and therefore had a mobilizing quality. In recent publications I have called the effects and affects of Moral Panics during the German Autumn a “felt/perceived state of Emergency” (gefühlter Ausnahmezustand).

In my presentation at the Kolloquium at DHIP I therefore want to focus on the discoursive and performative qualities of a state of emergency during the German Autumn of 1977 and how this was referred to on both sides of the confrontation.

Endstation Bataclan – Nov 13, 8 p.m., Goethe Institute

(c) Maurice Weiss, Ostkreuz, Medea Film.

Im Rahmen der diesjährigen Tagung zum Ausnahmezustand zeigen wir den Dokumentarfilm „Endstation Bataclan“ von Alexander Smoltzcyk und Maurice Weiss. Der Film läuft am 13.11.2017 um 20:00 Uhr in den Räumen unseres Partners, des Goethe Instituts Paris. Alle wichtigen Informationen rund um den Film finden sich hier. Um Anmeldung wird gebeten.

On November 13, 2017, 8 p.m., we will present the documentary „Endstation Bataclan“, produced by Alexander Smoltzcyk and Maurice Weiss. The film is an important part of this year’s conference on state of exception. It will be shown at the site of our conference partner, the Goethe Institute Paris. Further information on the presentation can be found here. Registration is required.

Workshop: Der Alltag der Ausnahme: Besatzungsregime im 20. Jahrhundert

In Köln findet vom 7. bis 8.12.2017 ein Workshop zum Thema „Der Alltag der Ausnahme: Besatzungsregime im 20. Jahrhundert“ statt, der von Thomas Blanck und Byron Schirbock organisiert wird. Um Anmeldung bis zum 1.12.2017 unter thomas.blanck@smail.uni-koeln.de wird gebeten. Nähere Informationen zum Programm gibt es hier.

Aus dem Ankündigungstext: „Anhand aktueller Projekte von NachwuchwissenschaftlerInnen möchte wir diskutierten, wie sich Alltag und Ausnahme im 20. Jahrhundert stärker analytisch greifen und in Relation bringen lassen. Ziel des Workshops ist es, den Begriff Ausnahmezustand, der aktuell überwiegend in politik- und rechtshistorischen Zusammenhängen diskutiert wird, stärker mit dem Fokus auf die AkteurInnen im Kontext von Besatzungen zu verknüpfen.“

Abstract 6/15: Thomas Blanck (University of Cologne) – A revolutionary state of exception: Munich, 1918/19

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While both the idea and the practice of a contemporary suspension of constitutional rights can be traced back to antiquity, the term “state of exception” (Ausnahmezustand) was coined only in the first half of the 20th century, most famously by Carl Schmitt. At the same time, it is often overlooked that his well-known definition of sovereignty must be linked to a concrete historical situation, namely the socialist revolution in Munich in 1918/19. Schmitt experienced the revolutionary collapse of the German Empire firsthand: it was this experience, I will argue, that shaped his decisionistic state theory.

Taking the link between Schmitt’s biography and political theory as a point of departure, this paper has two closely intertwined aims: concentrating on the aftermath of the First World War in Munich, it investigates the relation between the development of the concept of “exceptional” political situations on the one hand and its application as a tool of (re)establishing public order on the other hand. In doing so, it connects the abstract level of Begriffsgeschichte with the history of the actual implementation of emergency measures. In other words, the central question is: how did exceptional thinking and exceptional acting influence each other in a period of violent and revolutionary transformation in an urban context?

The paper will focus on Munich in the years 1918 and 1919. After the end of World War I, the former capital of the Bavarian Kingdom became the arena for a revolution that in many ways was far more radical and had longer lasting effects than elsewhere in Germany. On November 7, 1918, socialist Kurt Eisner proclaimed the republic and all over Bavaria, worker’s and soldier’s councils were founded, king Ludwig III abdicated. Eisner’s assassination in February 1919 strengthened the radical forces of the revolutionary movement, eventually leading to a bloody conflict between Munich’s Red Army and troops sent by the German government in Berlin. Thus, Bavaria found itself in a twofold state of exception: on the one hand, the monarchical government’s authority had collapsed within hours, leaving the revolutionary leaders in front of a constitutional vacuum that had to be filled with decrees, orders, and rules. On the other hand, the proclaimed Bavarian Freistaat (free state) itself was an exception within the framework of post-war Germany, challenging the authority of the newly formed republican government in Berlin.

The question posed above will be answered in three steps. First, I will delineate the evolution of the state of exception in Bavaria on a juridical and normative level. Special attention will be paid to the question of how the transition from the pre-war to the post-war political system influenced the government’s possibility of applying emergency measures as guaranteed by the respective constitution: did the post-war authorities rely on methods established by the former system? On which juridical sources were the countless revolutionary emergency decrees based on – if they had a juridical base at all? Second, I will examine the discourse on the exceptionality of the situation, be it regarding the political actors in Munich who legitimized their actions by describing themselves as the exceptional forefront of political and societal renewal in Germany, be it regarding the external perception of the Bavarian revolution. How did the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces – both operating officially in the name of freedom and democracy – publicly justify and communicate their actions that clearly violated the existing legal order? In a third step, I will look at the state of exception as a factor of political mobilization. Following Alf Lüdtke and Michael Wild, the state of exception can be understood as an „arena of possibilities, and of self-empowerments”. The state, thus, is “a moment of governance that is not ordered by the constitution rather than being constantly created by manifold actors, neither ‘top-down’ nor ‘bottom-up’.” [1] Consequently, one must ask whether there exists a distinction between the abstract legal order and the actual political situation within a revolutionary context at all. Or should one rather argue that once exceptional measures have been applied, there is no such thing as a normalcy anymore?

[1] Alf Lüdtke and Michael Wildt, Einleitung, in: id. (eds.), Staats-Gewalt. Ausnahmezustand und Sicherheitsregimes. Historische Perspektiven (=Göttinger Gespräche zur Geschichtswissenschaft, vol. 27), Göttingen 2008, pp. 7-38, here p. 23 (translation TB).