Reconceptualizing the State of Exception and its Challenges to Democracy and Rights in Europe
7–8 June 2021
University of Jyväskylä and CECH, University of Coimbra
The Workshop Reconceptualizing the State of Exception and its Challenges to Democracy and Rights in Europe is the third of a series of three workshops organized by Working Group 3: Concepts of COST Action CA 16211 Reappraising Intellectual Debates on Civic Rights and Democracy in Europe (RECAST). This workshop focuses on the challenges to democracy and rights that have recently been put forward by the multiplication of ‘states of exception’, or emergency rule, in many countries, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
First theorized by Carl Schmitt and further developed by Giorgio Agamben and other authors, the state of exception poses a plethora of conceptual, normative, legal, ethical, political and social challenges. As the legal justification of temporary restrictions of rights and freedoms comes into force, with freedom of movement being a notable – but not the only – example, worries of the long-term effects of such measures resurface. With the shadow of authoritarianism resurfacing in so-called ‘illiberal’ democracies, many authors point to the risk of democracies faltering when the exception somehow turns into the rule. As such, discussions about the state of exception also have implications for re-conceptualizing rights and democracy. The analysis of this topic is of the utmost importance and urgency in Europe, calling for the participation not only of academics, but also policy-makers, as well as political and civil society actors.
While state of exception, democracy and rights are all politically contested concepts, with different histories, meanings and usages, we are particularly interested in examining the political, legal, institutional layouts and relations of these concepts and the understandings they can imply. The workshop thus invites conceptual investigations and theoretical (and or practical) explorations on these questions. The state of exception is considered as a locus for conceptual debates and thus, for unravelling the tensions between claims, norms, policies and practices related to democracy and rights. It is also relevant to ask whether today the state of exception still assumes the same meaning as in the past, or if it is being significantly reconceptualized.
Against this backdrop the Working Group 3: Concepts sets out to analyze the topic of the state of exception, in its connection with rights and democracy. We invite contributions from different disciplines, including political, philosophical, historical, legal, sociological and public policy perspectives. The submissions should focus on the European framework, and they might explore (but are not limited to) the following topics: