Ulrich Becker, Jens Kersten

Phänomenologie des Verfassungswandels. Eine verfassungstheoretische und rechtsdogmatische Perspektiverweiterung anlässlich der demografischen Entwicklung

Jahrgang 141 () / Heft 1, S. 1-39 (39)

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Social, economic and political changes inform the way we interpret and – as a consequence – apply constitutional provisions. Such modifications of constitutional law may occur without explicit alterations or amendments to the text of the constitution. In German constitutional law, this change, development or evolution of the constitution is called 'Verfassungswandel'. German legal scholarship has discussed 'Verfassungswandel' broadly for more than a hundred years. Most scholars favour a narrow understanding of 'Verfassungswandel' as a 'doctrinal' question of interpreting the law. Quite the contrary, we suggest a wider, phenomenological approach to understand the development and evolution of the constitution as a living legal instrument. We recommend a contextualized understanding of 'constitutional change'. Four categories help to develop this phenomenological view of 'Verfassungswandel': structures (indicating the identification of changes), signatures (indicating the reflection and conceptualisation of changes), correctives (indicating the process of changes) and ligatures (indicating the legal limits of changes) of the constitution. These four categories allow us to grasp how the constitution – as a fragmented, complex and systematic body of law – evolves in reaction to social, economic and political changes with legal evolution. We use the ongoing processes of demographic changes in Germany as an illustration of our phenomenological perspective on 'Verfassungswandel', since these demographic processes have an impact on our society as a whole and present far reaching constitutional consequences.

Ulrich Becker is Director of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law, Munich.

Jens Kersten ist Professor für Öffentliches Recht und Verwaltungswissenschaften an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München.