Skip to main content Accessibility help

Legal Theory in the Collapse of Weimar: Contemporary Lessons?

  • David Dyzenhaus (a1)

The Weimar Republic is frequently invoked in political theory as an example when the issue is the appropriate response of liberal democracies to internal, fundamental challenges. I explore that example through the lens of a 1932 court case that tested the legality of the federal government's “coup” against Prussia. In my analysis of the court's judgment and of the arguments of three political and public law theorists, Carl Schmitt, Hans Kelsen, and Hermann Heller, I argue for Heller's democratic vision of the rule of law. In my conclusion, I compare problems in Kelsen's position with problems in the recently articulated position of John Rawls in order to suggest what lessons Weimar may have for contemporary political theory.

Hide All
Bracher, Karl Dietrich. 1984. Die Auflösung der Weimarer Republik [The dissolution of the Weimar Republic]. 5th ed. Dusseldorf: Droste Verlag.
Brecht, Arnold. [1944] 1968. Prelude to Silence: The End of the German Republic. New York: Howard Fertig.
Dyzenhaus, David. N.d. Truth's Revenge: Carl Schmitt, Hans Kelsen, and Hermann Heller in Weimar. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Forthcoming.
Eyck, Erich. 1967. A History of the Weimar Republic, vol. 2. Trans. Hanson, Harlan P. and Waite, Robert G.L.. New York: John Wiley.
Finn, John E. 1991. Constitutions in Crisis: Political Violence and the Rule of Law. New York: Oxford University Press.
Grimm, Dieter. 1992. “Verfassungserfüllung—Verfassungsbewahrung—Verfassungsauflösung: Positionen der Staatsrechtslehre in der Staatskrise der Weimarer Republik” [Constitutional fulfilment—constitutional preservation—constitutional dissolution: The positions of public lawyers in the state crisis of the Weimar Republic]. In Die Deutsche Staatskrise 1930–33: Handlungsspielräume und Alternativen [The German state crisis 1930–33: Room for free play and alternatives], ed. Winkler, Heinrich August. Munich: R. Oldenbourg.
Grund, Henning. 1976. “Preussenschlag” und Staatsgerichtshof im Jahre 1932 [The “strike against Prussia” and the court in 1932]. Baden-Baden: Nomos.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1996. Between Facticity and Norms: Contributions to a Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy. Trans. Rehg, William. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Hart, H. L. A. 1961. The Concept of Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hart, H. L. A. 1983. Essays in Jurisprudence and Philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Heller, Hermann. 1992. 3 vols. Gesammelte Schriften [Collected writings], 2d ed., Müller, Christoph. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).
Vol. 2. Recht, Staat, Macht [Law, state, power].
[1926] 1992. “Die Krisis der Staatslehre” [The crisis of state theory.
[1927] 1992. Die Souveränität: Ein Beitrag zur Theorie des Staatsund Völkerrechts [Sovereignty: A contribution toward the theory of state and international law].
[1928] 1992. “Politische Demokratie und Soziale Homogenität” [Political democracy and social homogeneity].
[1929] 1992. “Rechtsstaat oder Diktatur” [Rule of law or dictatorship].
[1931] 1992. Europa und der Fascismus [Europe and fascism].
[1932] 1992a. “Ist das Reich Verfassungsmässig vorgegangen?” [Did the Reich act in accordance with the constitution?].
[1932] 1992b. “Bürger und Bourgeois” [Citizen and bourgeois].
Vol. 3. Staatslehre als politische Wissenschaft [Theory of the state as political science].
[1934] 1992. Staatslehre [Theory of the state].
Kelsen, Hans. 19301931. “Wer soll der Hüter der Verfassung sein?” [Who should be the guardian of the constitution?] Die Justiz 6 (11/12):576628.
Kelsen, Hans. 19321933. “Das Urteil des Staatsgerichtshof vom 25. Oktober 1932” [The court's judgment of 25 10 1932]. Die Justiz 8 (2/3):6591.
Kelsen, Hans. [1928] 1981. Der soziologische und der juristische Staatsbegriff [The sociological and juristic concepts of state], 2d ed. Tübingen: Scientia Verlag Aalen.
Kelsen, Hans. [1929] 1981. Vom Wesen und Wert der Demokratie [The nature and value of democracy], 2d ed. Tübingen: Scientia Verlag Aalen.
Kelsen, Hans. [1934] 1992. Introduction to the Problems of Legal Theory. Trans. Paulson, Bonnie Litschewski and Paulson, Stanley. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Kennedy, Ellen. 1984. “The Politics of Toleration in Late Weimar: Hermann Heller's Analysis of Fascism and Political Culture.” History of Political Thought 5 (Spring):109–27.
Kolb, Eberhard. 1988. The Weimar Republic. Trans. Falla, P.S.. London: Unwin Hyman.
Lustick, Ian. 1996. “History, Historiography, and Political Science: Multiple Historical Records and the Problem of Selection Bias.American Political Science Review 90 (09):605–18.
Mommsen, Hans. 1996. The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy. Trans. Forster, Elborg and Jones, Larry Eugene. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Müller, Ingo. 1991. Hitler's Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich. Trans. Schneider, Deborah Lucas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Niemeyer, Gerhart. 1941. Law without Force: The Function of Politics in International Law. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Preussen. [1933] 1976. Preussen contra Reich vor dem Staatsgerichtsthof: Stenogrammbericht der Verhandlungen vor dem Staatsgerichstshofin Leipzig vom 10. bis. 14 und vom 17. Oktober 1932 [Prussia v. Reich before the court: Stenographic report of the proceedings before the court in Leipzig, 10 to 14 and 17 October 1932]. Glashütten im Taunus: Verlag Detlev Auvermann Kg.
Rawls, John. 1993. Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.
Raz, Joseph. 1983. The Authority of Law: Essays on Law and Morality. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Raz, Joseph. 1994. “Facing Diversity: The Case of Epistemic Abstinence.” In Ethics in the Public Domain: Essays in the Morality of Law and Politics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Rorty, Richard. 1991. “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy.” In Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers Volume 1. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Rossiter, Clinton L. 1948. Constitutional Dictatorship: Crisis Government in Modern Democracies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Rüthers, Berndt. 1989. Entaretes Recht: Rechtslehren und Kronjuristen im Dritten Reich [Degenerate law: Law professors and state law officers in the Third Reich], 2d ed. Munich: C.H. Beck.
Scheuerman, William E. 1994. Between the Norm and the Exception: The Frankfurt School and the Rule of Law. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Schlink, Bernhard. 1994. “German Constitutional Culture in Transition”. In Constitutionalism, Identity, Difference, and Legitimacy: Theoretical Perspectives, ed. Rosenfeld, Michel. Durham: Duke University Press.
Schluchter, Wolfgang. 1983. Entscheidung für den sozialen Rechtsstaat: Hermann Heller und die staatstheoretische Diskussion in der Weimarer Republik [Decision for the social rule of law: Hermann Heller and the discussion of state theory in the Weimar Republic], 2d ed. Baden-Baden: Nomos.
Schmitt, Carl. 1932. “Die Verfassungsmässigkeit der Bestellung eines Reichskommissars für das Land Preussen” [The constitutionality of the appointment of a commissioner for the Reich in Prussia]. Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung 15 (41):954–8.
Schmitt, Carl. [1932] 1976. The Concept of the Political. Trans. Schwab, George. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Schmitt, Carl. [1922] 1988. Political Theology. Trans. Schwab, George. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Schmitt, Carl. [1932] 1988. Legalität und Legitimität [Legality and legitimacy], 5th ed. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
Schmitt, Carl. [1922] 1989. Die Diktatur [Dictatorship]. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
Schmitt, Carl. [1928] 1989. Verfassungslehre [Constitutional theory]. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
Smend, Rudolf. 1995. Staatsrechtliche Abhandlungen und andere Aufsätze [Essays on public law and other articles], 3d ed. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed