Tradition, Dogma, Entwicklung

Fritz Fleiner

Fritz Fleiner, Tradition, Dogma, Entwicklung als aufbauende Kräfte der schweizerischen Demokratie, in: Ausge­wählte Schriften und Reden, Zürich: Polygraphischer Verlag AG, 1941, S. 288-302 (first printing Zürich: Orell Füssli, 1933).

Introduction/Historical Situation and Systematic Context

Legal order can be dogmatically understood as an attempt to make the constant change in legal life and legal experience more constant and continuous. Within the process of legislation, legal politics stand for the potential possibility to change legal order and to adapt it to the new needs of the time, whereas jurisprudence with the dogmatical structure of its concepts and institutions stands for resistance to such developments, even if it often not represents the static element, but rather contributes a lot to adapt the legal order to changing circumstances, by appealing to legal principles.

We have already encountered the dynamic conception of change and development in Fritz Fleiner’s inaugural lecture at the University of Zurich (see no. 4.1 of this Legal Anthology) as well as in its thematic complement from 1934, entitled “Wandlungen der demokratischen Ideen”. These contributions evidently stand under the impression of the menace from German totalitarianism. In this situation, it is an urgent requirement to identify the cultural forces that have enabled Switzerland has overcome abstract political theories by concrete political ideas.

Content, Abstracts/Conclusions, Insights, Evidence

The starting point of the according argumentation, and the main interest of Fritz Fleiner consists in determining the crucial deviations of the Swiss political system from both parliamentary system and autocratical government. The Swiss Federal State appears as the antithetical conception to both of these: “Die Schweiz ist in Europa das demokratischste, aber am weitesten vom Parlamentarismus entfernte Land, und andererseits steht sie in ihrer Verehrung des Satzes, dass die Mehrheit König ist, in vollem Gegensatz zu jeder Form der Diktatur. Diese Besonderheiten lassen sich nur aus geschichtlichen Verhältnissen und durch den Hinweis auf die im Volke ruhenden Vorstellungen über das staatliche Zusammenleben erklären. Sie sind durch bestimmte geistige Kräfte ans Licht gezogen und zur Entfaltung gebracht worden. Unter diesen schöpferischen Kräften kommt der Tradition, dem politischen Dogma und dem Gedanken der Entwicklung eine überragende Bedeutung zu”. We skip tradition and dogmatism as building principles of Swiss juridical-political system, where constant reference is made to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his theories as guiding principles.

We directly jump to the third-mentioned element of permanent change, of continuous development as an integrated force in the Swiss political system. By means of this idea, it occurs a replacement of static views by a dynamic conception of institutions, included the nation state. “Die Schweiz hat konservative und vorwärtstreibende Kräfte des Staatslebens organischer als ein anderer Staat – England ausgenommen – zu einer Einheit zusammengefasst und Gemeinschaft und Individuum verbunden. Das Unreflektierte verflicht sich in unserer Verfassungsentwicklung mit der bewussten Rechtsschöpfung. Weil das schweizerische Verfassungsleben so stark in den besonderen geschichtlichen Zusammenhängen unseres Landes und den besonderen politischen Vorstellungen seiner Bürger verankert ist, so weicht der schweizerische Staat in so Vielem von den herrschenden wissenschaftlichen Lehren über die Demokratie ab”. Dynamic alterations of the constitutional order have accompanied the historical revisions of the Swiss Federal Constitution at least from May 1874, if not from the very beginning in 1848 or from the failed attempts in 1861, and they continue in the Twentieth Century in the way of partial revisions, crossing many declared crisis, to lead to the intent of a total revision of the formal Constitution in the 1970s, in succession to a malaise, analysed by Max Imboden, in order to come to its conclusion in the 1990s with the successful revision process based on the will to trace all valid constitutional rules and to express them textually, leading to the adoption of the revised Constitution in April 1999.

Further Information About the Author

Fritz Fleiner, born 24 January 1867 in Aarau, died 26 October 1937 in Ascona, received his academic education at the Universities of Zurich, Leipzig, Berlin and Paris, before he was promoted and habilitated in public law of the religion communities in 1890 and 1892, and in consequence was private lecturer and later extraordinary professor at the University of Zurich from 1892 on. In 1897, he settled over to the University of Basel, where he was as an ordinary professor in charge of public law, i.e. federal constitutional and administrative law. In 1906, he was called to the University of Tubingen, in 1908 he changed to the University of Heidelberg, elaborating a masterful work on the “Institutionen des Deutschen Verwaltungsrecht” (1911), a general theory of the administrative law, that stands in the tradition of the famous Otto Mayer.

Between 1915 and 1936 he had the ordinary chair at the University of Zurich, back in his home country, where in 1916 he held his famous inaugural lecture in subject of “Entwicklung und Wandlung moderner Staatstheorien in der Schweiz”. He virtually indtroduced modern administrative studies to Switzerland. In 1923 he published his main work about “Schweizerisches Bundesstaatsrecht”, later further developed together with his colleague Zaccaria Giacometti. He had a liberal mentality and a specific historical and political approach to public law, and he therefore intended to strengthen the rule of law, the fundamental liberties and freedoms and he promoted the establishment and enlargement of a constitutional and administrative jurisdiction.

For further information, please consult:

A. Im Hof: Fritz Fleiner, in: Schweizer Juristen der letzten hundert Jahre, mit einem Vorwort von Max Huber, mit einer historischen Einleitung von Eduard His, ed. Hans Schulthess, Schulthess & Co. A.-G., Zürich 1945, pp. 455ss.;

Felix Renner: Der Verfassungsbegriff im staatsrechtlichen Denken der Schweiz im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Dissertation Universität Zürich), Zürich: Schulthess & Co., 1968, pp. 270 ss.;

Giovanni Biaggini: Fritz Fleiner, in: Staatsrechtslehrer des 20. Jahrhunderts, Deutschland, Österreich, Schweiz, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015, pp. 111 ss.

Selected Works of the Same Author

Fritz Fleiner: Institutionen des deutschen Verwaltungsrechts, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 8. ed. 1928; Idem: Ausgewählte Schriften und Reden, Zürich: Polyagraphischer Verlag AG, 1941; Idem: Entstehung und Wandlung modernen Staatstheorien in der Schweiz, in: Ausge­wählte Schriften und Reden, Zürich: Polygraphischer Verlag AG, 1941, pp. 163ss.; Idem (later editions together with Zaccaria Giacometti): Schweizerisches Bundesstaatsrecht, Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1923 (3. ed. Zürich: Polygraphischer Verlag, 1949; reprint 1969).

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