University of Iowa News Release
June 5, 2006
Law Professor Somek Awarded Fellowship At German Research Institute
University of Iowa law professor Alexander Somek has been selected a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin, where he will examine his theory that the age of constitutional law is coming to a conclusion.
Somek will be one of about 30 scholars from around the world to study at the Institute during the 2007-08 academic year. He will be with a group of scholars who will work on questions concerning constitutionalism beyond the nation state.
Somek is an expert in constitutional law and theory and has studied constitutional law from its first development in the 16th century. He believes that the idea of national constitutions as tools to control the power of government and the people have changed in such a way over time that the system has been severely weakened. He believes the rise of the "supranational" organization, such as the European Union, is likely to eliminate what is left.
"Constitutional law cannot be taken beyond the nation-state because then it is no longer constitutional law," said Somek. "It becomes something else."
Somek said that while he doesn't know how society will be managed in a post-constitutional age, he suspects it will return to a structure similar to what was in place before the rise of constitutionalism. Then, it was a balance of interests between royalty, the nobility and commoners. What exactly those players will be in the post-constitutional age, however, he doesn't know. But he said the danger of such a development is that decisions will be placed in the hands of non-democratic, stateless organizations that are not accountable to the people they oversee.
Founded in 1980, the Institute for Advanced Study provides researchers the opportunity to pursue their research while sharing ideas and inspiration with distinguished colleagues from other disciplines and nationalities. Somek said the Institute is unlike many research centers because it requires all of its fellows to participate in some way in the work of the other fellows, regardless of their discipline. Fellows share their research over daily lunches and in weekly presentations. The idea behind it, Somek said, is that fellows may see their own research in a different angle after hearing about the work that other fellows are pursuing.
Somek's co-fellows are studying such varied fields as mathematical musicology, archaeology, Japanese art history and the history of musical theater.
Fellowships to the Institute for Advanced Study are highly competitive and are awarded by an international advisory board.
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