For many fascinated by the interplay of legal systems and how well societies function, Martin Krygier is quite a familiar face – and voice. More recently heard on developments in Poland, he has been talking about the idea of ‘how to think about what we’ve done‘ since before he gave the Boyer Lecture series in 1997.
Asked about starting a new project that will bring yet another dimension to his well-known investigations of the rule of law, Martin said ‘Unlike conventional theories of the rule of law, my account insists that one must start by seeking to ascertain and delineate its point – not rest with some purportedly canonical set of features for legal institutions – so I am suspicious when obtaining the rule of law is presented as some process of ticking institutional boxes.’
He sees that this has two implications for the project: ‘First, since I take the point of the rule of law to be minimising the possibilities of arbitrary exercise of power, I am particularly concerned when modern populists attempt to evade such minimisation. Then, since modern populists not infrequently manipulate those so-called canonical features, my approach makes it easy to identify deviations from the rule of law, and so detect subversion, even vandalism, of the underpinnings of the values that I see as embodied in the rule of law.’
In doing a comparative analysis of the USA, Martin plans to use his experience in following the developments of post-dictatorial so-called ‘transitional’ regimes in Central and and Eastern Europe to cast the net much more widely around the world – where ‘my earlier work gives me an empirical awareness and context from which to view the ‘new populists’, and to observe where they are perhaps backsliding from earlier gains in democratisation’.