Militant democracy and COVID-19: Protecting the regime, protecting rights?

Steuer, Max (2020) Militant democracy and COVID-19: Protecting the regime, protecting rights? Hong Kong Journal of Law and Public Affairs, 2. pp. 131-145.

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This paper introduces some of the peculiarities embedded in contemporary research on the concept of militant democracy in relation to the concept of constitutionalism. As it is well known, there is an inherent tension in militant democracy, whereby militant measures, restricting rights in the name of upholding free and open political competition, can damage democracy. Thereby, militancy might remain fundamentally at odds with modern understandings of constitutionalism. As a result, besides efforts to limit the scope of militant democracy to a few narrowly defined restrictions, attempts have surfaced to distinguish between ‘militant democracy’ and ‘militant constitutionalism’, or to classify non-legal measures against extreme political actors as a version of militant democracy. The paper highlights the contributions of these approaches in its second section; nevertheless, the assessment of the broadening of the original concepts reveals the costs of such extensions. In the third section, the paper encourages thinking about the relationship between militant democracy and the pandemic that broke out in 2020. While it seems that particularly the challenges posed by a public health threat to democracy are unrelated to militant democracy, notably because there is no ‘actor’, whose rights can be restricted in the name of democracy protection, a connection with militant democracy arises through the question of restricting the spread of disinformation. As disinformation are often produced by actors opposed to democracy, a ‘dual justification’ for restricting them could be envisioned: protecting public health as well as protecting democracy. The paper concludes with identifying some difficulties with this approach, particularly in terms of determining who the ‘arbiters of truth’ shall be.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Militant democracy | Constitutionalism | Disinformation | Political concepts | Cordon sanitaire
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Health (Social sciences)
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Law and Legal Studies
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Political Science
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Mr. Syed Anas
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2022 15:09
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2022 15:09
Official URL:


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