Die rechtsstaatliche Demokratie

Richard Bäumlin

Richard Bäumlin, Die rechtsstaatliche Demokratie – Eine Untersuchung der gegenseitigen Beziehungen von Demokratie und Rechtsstaat (Dissertation Universität Bern), Zürich: Polygraphischer Verlag, 1954.

Introduction/Historical Situation and Systematic Context

The relationship between democracy and rule of law normally is condensed to the interleave of the firm standing term of “demokratischer Rechtsstaat”; Richard Bäumlin, however, denominates his synthesis just the other way around as “rechtsstaaliche Demokratie”. In the first case the defining denominator is the rule of law, whereas the qualification as democratic is merely a specific difference. In the second case the essential is the qualification as democracy and the rule of law consists merely in a specification. With his creative approach, integrating political theory and philosophy, the social and human sciences into jurisprudence and state theory, Bäumlin definitely surpasses and excels not only all of his contemporary colleagues, but also equals today’s state of art.

In conclusion, democracy and rule of law are considered to relate vitally one upon the other, or to build fellow sufferers. The declared aim of Richard Bäumlin’s promotion thesis is to demonstrate “die enge Schicksalsgemeinschaft von Demokratie und Rechtsstaat”. Taking into consideration the possibility of antinomy or synthesis of democracy and rule of law, the author discusses freedom of speech, freedom of religion and intermediary corporations as well as federalism as domains where democracy and the rule of law build a close connection with each other.

Content, Abstracts/Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

According to Richard Bäumlin, the normative concept of democracy and its contrary, autarchy are not only to be considered as relative, because of their ideal type, but rather to be criticised. Democracy is not only a specific way to determine the content of a legal order, based on general vote of all citizens, but far more than that, i.e. to be understood as a material qualification of the legal order itself, as a specific way to determine the nature of the form of government. Bäumlin connects to the concept of social community as proposed by Dietrich Schindler (senior) in his treatise on “Verfassungsrecht und soziale Struktur” from 1932 (see no. 1.8 of this Legal Anthology), and therefore intermediate follows the concepts elaborated by Hermann Heller. However, also to such an understanding, Bäumlin addresses criticism, as a merely sociological method where its causal laws cannot provide a solid base for deeper insights into democracy either. Rather the two principles establish a tension between the two possibilities of thought. The essential understanding can only be established as a material qualification of democracy, as the legal order follows rational, functional, or better speaking teleological principles. “Mit dem bisherigen ist aber nur gesagt, dass die Demokrati auch als auf bestimmte Werte bezogen zu verstehen gesucht werden müsse. Über die Natur dieser Werte ist damit noch nichts ausgesprochen”. Anthropology teaches that such decisions on about tasks and aims of a political community are due to a specific image of man, of mankind in general.

In a second part, Richard Bäumlin debates the various conceptions of rule of law in a continental European sense of “Rechtsstaatlichkeit”. Formal rule of law, whereupon state action is reduced to the performance of the legal order, is rejected as a historical step in a constant evolution of the model. The material conceptualisation is discussed with attention to compared public law. Rule of law also shows material impacts and refers to a constitution based on human rights, individual freedoms with a social dimension. These claims are so to say realised ideals of humanity within an existing social and political community. The modern state has to organise the framework of legal order in such a way, that the human individual can develop their talents best. To be read are the remarks to the constitutional legal order of the rule of law in a material understanding, as presented by the author on pp. 72 ss. The state organisation in the light separation of powers is also to be integrated as a qualification in the picture of material rule of law theory.

Philosophical Valuation and Jurisprudential Significance

Although the attempt made by Richard Bäumlin could appear as merely analytic, the inherent convictions regarding human rights and individual freedoms clearly give a highly pointed direction to the overview of pre-existing theories. This distinction should characterise the personal style of the author during the long and fecund career as an academic teacher at the University of Berne, as well as the other involvements of the sympathetic person. Eventually democracy is presented as a project within the development of the history of ideas, and thereby the aspect of historicity or historical dimension of democracy are stressed, referring to an ideal that is to be realised (compare the contribtion to the essays in honour of Bäumlin by Jörg Paul Müller: Recht und Zeit, in: Zentrum und Peripherie – Zusammenhänge, Fragmentierungen, Neuansätze, Festschrift für Richard Bäumlin zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Roland Herzog, Chur und Zürich: Rüegger, 1992, pp. 95 ss.).

Further Information About the Author

Richard Bäumlin, born 9 September 1927 in Berne, retired in Erlenbach im Simmental, did his studies in jurisprudence at the Universities of Berne and Göttingen, before presenting his doctor’s thesis in Berne in 1954, where he taught as a private lecturer starting 1957. In 1960 he was elected ordinary professor for public law and constitutional history, as well as for social philosophy. As a member of the socio-democratic party he was engaged in the domain of social politics and social philosophy and defended the rights of foreigners and human rights. He was also a member of the Club of Rome.

His lectures in constitutional history were legendary, as he tried to give an introduction to the integral history of political ideas.

For further information, including a comprehensive bibliography, please see:

Roland Herzog (Ed.): Zentrum und Peripherie – Zusammenhänge, Fragmentierungen, Neuansätze, Festschrift für Richard Bäumlin zum 65. Geburtstag, Chur/ Zürich: Rüegger, 1992.

Selected Works of the Same Author

Richard Bäumlin: Lebendige oder gebändigte Demokratie? Demokratisierung, Verfassung und Verfassungsrevision, Basel: Z-Verlag, 1978; Idem: Recht, Staat und Geschichte – Eine Studie zum Wesen des geschichtlichen Rechts, ent­wickelt an den Grundproblemen von Verfassung und Verwaltung, Zürich: EVZ-Verlag, 1961.

For Further Reading

Richard Bäumlin: Artikel “Rechtsstaat”, in: Evangelisches Staatslexikon, ed. Roman Herzog, Stuttgart: Kreuz, 3rd ed. 1987, columns 2806–2818;

Werner Kägi: Die Verfassung als rechtliche Grundordnung des Staates – Eine Untersuchung über die Entwicklungstendenzen im modernen Verfassungsrecht (Habilitationsschrift Universität Zürich), Zürich: Polygraphischer Verlag, 1945.


You can find a scan (PDF) of the original text here: Bäumlin Rechtsstaatliche Demokratie0001