In our Visiting Fellow series, we will hear from the academics and PhD students who virtually joined The Centre of Law and Society in the 2021-2022 academic year. In this post, we hear from Lukáš Lev Červinka, whose research looked at Anti-Establishment Parties: A Threat to Democracy or Chance for its New Equilibrium?
Why did you choose the topic?
Most of us, who graduated from ‘traditional’ law schools, also follow the doctrinal way of legal research when commencing our PhD studies. I was no exception. Initially, my doctoral project on anti-establishment political parties in Czechia and Italy was meant to be shaped by the constitutional point of view and a purely doctrinal approach. However, as I have been conceptualising the establishment—to be able to define the anti-establishment parties—I have realised my focus shifted towards more socio-legal questions, even though the constitutional-legal perspective remained.
I have re-drafted my main research question: How can political parties shape the establishment through their legislative activities? with the concept of the establishment being understood as an empirical contextualisation of democracy within a particular country; in other words, how is the democracy implemented in a particular country within a particular period of time. However, by doing so, I have put myself into a peculiar situation of looking into a rabbit hole of democracy as a broader social phenomenon. Such an endeavour is tricky, in particular to the constitutionalist, as it requires taking into account not only the institutionalised power of the state but also the non-institutionalised one—the people—and there is hardly anything less appealing than the people, which the constitutional law would like to invite to the table.
However, as much as this approach is a tricky one, it is also a promising one because it offers an opportunity to find a source of democratic legitimacy based on both state and the people, a reconciliation between the rule of law and the majoritarian rule of the people, which was, ultimately, the reason why I have succumbed to the socio-legal approach.
I have conceptualised the establishment as an outcome of the state’s constitutional imaginary, the people’s popular imaginary, and their mutual interactions, with both the state and the people being understood as autopoietic organisational systems defined by their communications. Therefore, building by theory, particularly upon Charles Taylor, Benedict Anderson, or Niklas Luhmann.
The legislative activity of the political parties—what bills they are proposing, what bills they are approving or rejecting—articulates the constitutional imaginary of the state and creates, alongside other actors, the constitutional identity of the state. Therefore, it is possible to distinguish between the establishment and anti-establishment political parties by analysing their legislative activity, the former offering the currently hegemonic understanding of the state, of its institutional and procedural framework, and its value base, the latter offering an alternative imaginary, trying to change the current understanding of the state but still within the limits of a democratic system of government.
Why did you choose the CLS?
At the beginning of my third year, I knew I had reached the point when I needed feedback from a more socio-legal perspective. My supervisors have always stood valiantly beside me, even in my decision to revamp my original doctoral project, and provided me with help regarding the constitutional-legal part of my project, both concerning Czechia and Italy. However, I needed to know that the socio-legal part of my work makes sense, and I was also slowly getting lost in the mesmerising labyrinth of the work of Niklas Luhmann. I needed the red thread that would guide me through, and since the name of Professor Přibáň from the CLS has been a regular in works on both Niklas Luhmann’s social systems theory and the constitutional imaginary, the CLS Fellowship seemed to me an ideal, and, in the end, it was.
What did you contribute from the CLS fellowship?
I have heard professor Přibáň once speaking about the need of every scholar to find his guarding angel, and—risking to be inappropriately frank—I was lucky to find one in professor Přibáň who has guided me through the dangerous crossings of going outside of not only my law-bubble into the world of sociology of law but also my Czech-bubble. It is easy for an early scholar to get lost in his own research and its interdisciplinarity or internationality, which is why I have found the CLS Fellowship so valuable. It has provided me with guidance, new impulses, new colleagues, and especially, with trust in my own work and hope the doctoral task is, in the end, a Herculean rather than Sisyphean one.