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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Cosmopolitanism in Constitutional Law

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life


On Thursday, April 11, Vlad Perju, director of the Clough Center for Constitutional Democracy and associate professor of law at Boston Col­lege, joined us to discuss his recent work on cosmopoli­tanism and constitutional law. He began by outlining the ways in which globalization has led to some inter­national legal convergences among, for example, bills of rights and approaches to the issue of “open stand­ing.” Nations that share the same basic constitutional principles are more likely to interact peaceably with one another, he argued, because they open a door for further exchange of democratic ideas and institutions. This in turn makes it more likely that these nations will incorporate elements of international law in their domestic constitutions.

Drawing upon the theory of cosmopolitanism Immanu­el Kant detailed in his famous essay “Perpetual Peace,” Perju argued that constitutional convergence can sup­port the creation of a cosmopolitan order. Kant’s theory rest upon three propositions: that all nations should have republican constitutions; that republican states are more likely to embrace a non-coercive supranational federation; and that these states are more likely to be­have hospitably towards their neighbors. Since repub­lics share the values of equality and self-government, these states can more peaceably interact, thus creating a dynamic exchange of ideas for domestic constitutions.

In the wide-ranging discussion that followed, audience members queried Perju about the state of internation­al law in American jurisprudence, the future of Hungar­ian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s efforts at constitu­tional reform, and the perceived weak­nesses of Kantian cosmopolitanism today.