In the early 1990s, a number of countries in the world were moving from authoritarian, military, and/or undemocratic regimes towards democratic constitutionalism that protected many liberal values (such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion) as well as “newer” rights (such as to minimal social welfare support and to preserve clean and natural environments). The “end of history” was declared, famously, by Francis Fukuyama. But history does not move only in one direction. Today we are seeing the rise of what is being called “populist nationalism,” in which the majoritarian democracy seems to be on the rise and the constitutionalist protection for minority rights on the decline, with threats in some countries to the liberal rights of freedom of speech, association and the press often deemed indispensable to the legitimacy of reliance on elections as the basis for governance. Why? What – if anything – can lawyers do in response?
Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: TBD.