Center for Interdisziplinary Research

Development of the European Constitution in the Inter-War Years

Date: February 07 - 09, 2007

Organizers: Hans Boldt (Müllheim), Christoph Gusy (Bielefeld), Andreas Wirsching (Augsburg)

In German history as well as in German historiography the Interwar Years can be divided into two parts: First, the Weimar Republic and, second, the Nazi regime, the first historically directly followed by the second and both giving the period between the wars a twofold character. Looking beyond German borders, between 1920 and 1939 parliamentary democracy in at least twelve European states was replaced by a far-right dictatorship. This failure of democratic constitutions was centrally influenced by the following factors: the Versailles Treaty and the depression in the 1920ies as well as the effects of the war and arising social tensions. This at least temporally similar course of historical development in numerous European states provided a basis for addressing similarities and differences among them. Thereby three groups of states can be differentiated: States with a stable democracy throughout the whole period between the wars; states that were completely unable to develop a stable democracy; and finally states, in which democracy was replaced by an authoritarian regime. At first, the participants addressed mainly comparative issues. Searching for factors that had an overall effect on the failure of democracy, endogenous as well as exogenous factors were elaborated. Therefore, reports on individual states were set in a general framework of research. As a result of this the classic Sonderweg thesis appears in a new light. A new and interdisciplinary description of this thesis has to focus on the role of political institutions, actors and processes, thus developing a new tertium comparationis. In the end the participants agreed that developing and furthering the achieved results of the conference can only be the task of a new primarily interdisciplinary discussion.
The conference transcript 'Demokratie in der Krise: Europa in der Zwischenkriegszeit' will be published in the serial 'Internationale Studien zu Recht und Staat'.

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