Die Kunst der Verfassungserneuerung

Peter Saladin

Peter Saladin, Die Kunst der Verfassungserneuerung in: Der Staat als Auf­­gabe, Gedenk­schrift für Max Imboden, ed. Peter Saladin and Luzius Wildhaber, Basel/ Stuttgart: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1972, pp. 269-292 (reprinted in: Die Kunst der Verfassungserneuerung, Schriften zur Verfas­sungs­reform 1968-1996, Basel/ Frankfurt am Main: Helbing & Lich­ten­hahn, 1998, pp. 15-36).

Introduction/Historical Situation and Systematic Context

The title of the essay by Peter Saladin, to be discussed further, “The art of renewing the constitution,” has been selected to give the title of the author’s collected essays by the editors. In fact, this essay appears very significant and representative for the author’s writings, apart from his monographies “Grundrechte im Wandel” and “Verantwortung als Staatsprinzip” (see nos. 5.14 and 5.17 of this Legal Anthology). To some extent, with this essay Saladin follows the stacks of his academic teacher, Max Imboden (see no. 5.13 of this Legal Anthology).

Peter Saladin has practised this art of constitution-making extensively, as he participated in the unsuccessful attempt of a total revision of the Swiss Federal Constitution in the 1970s, and he has contributed a great deal to the successful Constitution of the Canton Berne of June 1993. With vivid interest he followed the progress of the constitutional reform process, leading to the Swiss Federal Constitution of April 1999; however, he could no longer participate in an active way and died before the renewed Constitution entered into validity.

Content, Abstracts/Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

With practice in constitution-making, jurisprudence in the domain of public law becomes practical and therefore definitely enters the realm of legal philosophical thought. Peter Saladin addresses this practice with the qualification as an art, not as artistry as the output is radically different from artificial. It is commonly known, that the initiative and courage of this attempt to renew the constitution failed and gave way to an all too modest partly technocratic process of tracking the valid constitutional law and re-formulating its substance in the second half decade of the 1990s. However, the impetus of the first attempt is worth to be reconsidered, even after having experienced the success of the second approach.

In judging the opportunity, Peter Saladin perfectly agrees with his academic teacher Max Imboden. His approach is to be considered as heuristic, as he identifies the necessity of re-thinking, of thinking over the existing constitutional order, proposes a method to adopt and identifies the following priorities: the environment is to be analysed, human dignity to be secured, political models have to be evaluated and finally leading ideas and concepts have to be elaborated. The author is fully aware that his conception means to start a process with an open ending, depending on what should remain and what has to be renewed. His leading ideas do not only reflect the status quo of constitutional thought within the political society: “Sie machen nicht die Grundideen der politischen Gemeinschaft aus, sondern sie müssen schlagwortartig, exemplifizierend, einprägsam anzeigen, wie die Grundideen in der historischen Situation von heute und morgen eine neue politische Ordnung gestalten sollen. Die Leitmotive müssen nicht nur rational einleuchten, sondern auch in einer seelischen Schicht anklingen”.

Peter Saladin’s intention is to enlarge the process of constitution-making into the future and to respect the needs of human circumstances and the natural environment (two guidelines that have been elaborated separately by the author). Within the process, even such old-conduced and approved concepts as Swiss federalism have to be questioned and taken into consideration. “Für die Verfassunggebung – und vor allem für eine eigentliche Neuschöpfung der Verfassung – genügt heute nicht mehr, was wir mit berechtigter Bewunderung den Vätern unserer geltenden Bundesverfassung zurechnen: Weitblick, Intuition, staatsmännische Einsicht in das politisch Fruchtbare und Tragbare. All diese Tugenden müssen zwar auch die Verfassungsschöpfer von heute und morgen auszeichnen. Sie bedürfen aber notwendig der Ergänzung durch die Bereitschaft, Analysen und Modelle systematisch zu erarbeiten”. Thereby, jurisprudence is taken into obligation and responsibility, however not in the sense of an academical exercise, but rather in a truly creative way, in order to complement the crucial task for the political community.

Further Information About the Author

Peter Saladin, born 4 February 1935 in Basel, died 25 May 1997 in Berne, studied jurisprudence at the University of Basel, where he received a doctorate in 1961, being a scholar of Max Imboden. After having practised as a lawyer, he went to the Freie Universität Berlin and to the Michigan Law School in 1962/1963. He then joined the federal administration, worked for the federal department of justice and was secretary of the scientific council. In 1969 he presented his habilitation thesis, a standard work on “Grundrechte im Wandel”, published 1970. From 1972 he was ordinary professor for public law at the University of Basel, and between 1976 until his death he was professor for constitutional and administrative law at the University of Berne. He was mainly occupied with public church law, invested himself to the promotion of ecology and claimed rights of nature, and intended to also take into consideration the rights of future generations. His core interest remained the preservation of the dignity of every single human being. In 1991 he received the honour of doctor honoris causa by the University of Geneva.

Our interest in his broad publications consists in his revolution of the doctrine of rule of law by introducing the concept of responsibility into the legal order.

For further information, please consult:

Diemut Majer: Peter Saladin, in: Staatsrechtslehrer des 20. Jahrhunderts, Deutschland, Österreich, Schweiz, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015, pp. 1021 ss

Selected Works of the Same Author

Peter Saladin: Grundrechte im Wandel – Die Rechtsprechung des Schweizeri­schen Bundesgerichts zu den Grundrechten in einer sich ändernden Umwelt. Bern: Stämpfli & Cie. AG, 3. ed. 1982 (extract); Idem: Kleinstaa­ten mit Zukunft? In: Die Kunst der Verfassungsreneuerung, Schriften zur Verfassungsreform 1968-1996, Basel/ Frankfurt am Main: Helbing & Lich­tenhahn, 1998, pp. 361ss.; Idem: Unerfüllte Bundesverfassung? In: Hun­dert Jahre Bundesverfassung 1874-1984, Die Bundesverfassung gestern, heute, mor­gen (Zeitschrift für Schweizerisches Recht, N. S. vol. 93, vol. 3/ 4, pp. 307ss.), Basel: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1974.

For Further Reading

Max Imboden: Helvetisches Malaise, in: Staat und Recht, Ausge­wählte Schriften und Vorträge, Basel/ Stuttgart: Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1971, pp. 279-307 (first printing in: Polis, Evangelische Zeitbuchreihe, vol. 20, Zürich: EVZ-Verlag, 1964).


You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here: Saladin Kunst der Verfassungserneuerung0001