What is it that European constitutional scholars are, and should be, pursuing?
The noble answer would be: knowledge, as all scholars do. However, they do much more, undoubtedly because of the nature of their discipline. Lawyers have always been close to power. This has consequences for the way they conduct their research and teaching and, as I argue in this article, also for their responsibility and the way in which they can combine their academic work with lawyering, business, and public advocacy.
The article is structured as follows: I first discuss how academics’ engagement with ‘real-life issues’ may relate to different forms of power: one governmental, or public, and the other economic, or private. The second section seeks to theorise the power which constitutional scholars exercise and show how it depends on their in the scientific community. The latter has, however, faced the ‘crisis of scientific authority’, as the following third section shows. Constitutional scholars have not been immune to pressures that academics in all fields have been facing, and the fourth section therefore deals with academic freedom – the notion derived not only from the post-war catalogues of fundamental rights, but something that goes deeper to the ‘history of the university’ and its place in the society. Freedom, however, also means responsibility and in my view, academic freedom requires restraint on the part of individual academics, if we want to preserve it for all – the academic collective and all its individual members (see the fifth section). The power of the academic collective is looked at critically in the final section of this article: a call for critical judgment and resistance to group thinking.oa
The article can be downloaded at the EuConst webpage.
It has been (critically) commented by the chief editor of Verfassungsblog Maximilian Steinbeis and by Paolo Sandro (also at Verfassungsblog).