Constitutional Politics and Political Realism

3.1. Judicial Constraints on Legislatures in Europe 1990-2020 (JUDICON-EU)


Recent confrontations between constitutional courts and parliamentary majorities have attracted international interest in the relationship between the judiciary and the legislature in Europe. Several political actors have argued that courts have assumed too much power after the democratic transformation process in the last three decades. These claims are explicitly or implicitly connected to the charge that courts have constrained the room for manoeuvre of the legislatures too heavily and that they have entered the field of politics. Nevertheless, the question to what extent this aggregation of power has constrained the dominant political actors has never been examined accurately and systematically in the literature. The JUDICON-EU project aims to fill this research gap by applying the methodology of the JUDICON project (www.judicon.tk.mta.hu). Researchers from 25 European countries are going to code the relevant decisions of European constitutional courts in order to assess the diversity and the strength of judicial decisions between 1990 and 2020. This huge database might serve as a starting point for future researches interested in judicial politics and judicial-legislative relations. 

Research questions:

The JUDICON-EU research project aims to explore the diversity and strength of judicial decisions in Europe. While descriptive statistics based on the JUDICON-EU dataset might be useful for having a clear and detailed picture on the practice of constitutional adjudication in Europe, the project aims also to explain judicial behaviour. Consequently, the research project will try to find the most important factors which might have influenced the diversity and strength of judicial decisions. By applying various quantitative methods, the project focuses on various explanative factors of judicial behaviour like public trust indexes of constitutional courts, de facto independence of the judiciary, political fragmentation and polarization, and margin of majority in the parliament.

For more information on the research see the homepage of the project: JUDICON-EU

Participants of the project:

Kálmán Pócza (Principal Investigator)

Gábor Dobos


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3.2. The “Might is Right” Approach in Political Theory 

The project adopts a theoretical approach to address a fundamental dilemma in politics: is it might or right that takes precedence in political debates? Although the question is as old as politics itself, with the recent recurrence of realism in political theory several issues have been reopened, among them the problem and implications of the “might is right” approach. Crucial trends in contemporary politics seems to be unconceivable for citizens, politicians, and scholars alike without considering the dividing line between justification based on rightness on the one hand and might on the other. The research project focuses on the “might is right” approach to consider whether it implies any normative content and whether its reliance on mere might can be regarded as a form of justification at all. The relevance of the problem has become apparent in debates about the ongoing changes in democratic regimes as well, in which majoritarian arguments supplement or even replace the supposed normative foundations. On a more general level, it is about the reconsideration of our understanding of the nature of the political as it has been recognized by contemporary political realism which, however, denies that the “might is right” approach should be considered political or that it can be understood as justification. Criticizing both idealist and contemporary realist understandings of the political, the research aims at exploring the “might is right” approach as a minimal level of justification where mere might and argumentation meet. The intended result of the project is a book manuscript submitted to a leading publisher; however, its desired outcome is a more profound explanation of the current political changes in the world regarding the normativity of the political. 

Research question:

Applying both historical and conceptual analyses, the project aims at exploring how the ‘might is right’ approach can be regarded as a justification of politics given that the approach consists of two statements: 1. politics is justified by mere might (“might makes right” / “the reason of the strongest is always best”) and 2. politics requires justification. 

Participants of the project:

Attila Gyulai