1st Edition

Democracy, the Courts, and the Liberal State A Comparative Analysis of American and German Constitutionalism

By David Miles Copyright 2021
    222 Pages
    by Routledge

    222 Pages
    by Routledge

    Reformulating a problem of both constitutionalism and liberalism discussed in the works of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, Hannah Arendt, and Alexis de Tocqueville, the book examines one generally overlooked manifestation of constitutionalism: the role of the courts in shaping democratic politics and the inter-relationship between citizens and state.

    Drawing on constitutional history, law, and political theory, David Miles argues that constitutionalism cannot be seen merely as an institutional mechanism to limit government, as it also has a crucial civic dimension upon which the liberal state depends. Utilising the works of Böckenförde, Arendt, and Tocqueville, constitutionalism is conceived in the book as part of a broader system of communal norms which sustains representative democracy and liberalism. Through an analysis of judicial interventions in the electoral processes of the United States and Germany, Miles explores the role of civil society actors in transforming constitutionalism through legal challenges to oligarchical or exclusionary practices. He assesses how, in adjudicating these cases, the US Supreme Court and the German Constitutional Court have mediated the tension between threats to stability and the imperative of democratic renewal.

    Democracy, the Courts, and the Liberal State will be of interest to scholars, students, and practitioners interested in comparative politics, political theory, and constitutional law and history.


    1. Taking Democracy Seriously

    2. Mediating the Values of the Civic Space

    3. People of Different Views

    4. A Changing Concept of Equality

    5. The Democracy Training Programme

    6. Karlsruhe and the People



    David Miles is a former Carnegie Scholar and teaches international relations at the University of St Andrews. His academic and research interests include comparative politics, political theory, American and German constitutional history, US foreign policy, international relations, and identity. He is Editor-in-Chief of Global Politics Magazine.

    "Clearly written, assiduously researched, and never fantastical, Democracy, the Courts and the Liberal State is a delight-filled primer for how to overhaul our thinking about constitutionalism to uphold liberal democratic values for the twenty-first century. If David Miles can imagine and explain taking democracy seriously, then surely we can conceive of the serious institutions to build it!"

    Malik R Dahlan, Professor of International Law and Public Policy at Queen Mary University of London

    "Electoral processes are a crucial yet curiously neglected feature of any constitutional system. Not only legal theorists but also constitutional courts often have had overly simple, not to say simplistic, views of how these processes might best operate so as to secure and support core liberal democratic principles. David Miles’ excellent book breaks new ground in tackling this issue head on. In particular, he provides a critical and comparative examination of the core decisions on matters of electoral process of the US Supreme Court and the German Federal Constitutional Court. His analysis highlights both the importance of courts in fostering a flourishing liberal democracy, and the strengths and weaknesses of current judicial reasoning in the United States and Germany in this area."

    Richard Bellamy, Professor of Political Science, UCL