Cosmopolitanism in Constitutional Law

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Vlad Perju
Boston College

Date: April 11, 2013

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Is constitutionalism a welcoming home for the cosmopolitan ideal in law? Traditionally, law-minded cosmopolitans took international law as the site of choice for anchoring cosmopolitanism. Perju argues that this effort has been largely unsuccessful, however, the recent advent of "global constitutionalism" opens new avenues of inquiry about the future of cosmopolitan law. Perju will explain how Kant's political philosophy is particularly helpful in this endeavor. 

Speaker Bio

Vlad Perju

Vlad Perju is the Director of the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College and a tenured Associate Professor at Boston College Law School. His primary research interests include the law of the European Union, comparative constitutional law and theory, international and comparative law and jurisprudence. Perju was awarded the 2009 Ius Commune Prize for his article entitled "Reason and Authority in the European Court of Justice." His paper "Cosmopolitanism and Constitutional Self-Government" was selected for presentation at the 2010 Yale/Stanford Junior Faculty Forum. In 2008, Perju was appointed by the President of Romania to a seven-member Commission on Constitution Reform. He remains actively involved in the process of constitutional reform both in Romania as well as in the European Union. Perju received a doctorate from Harvard Law School, law degrees from the University of Bucharest and the University of Paris, and an LLM degree from the European Academy of Legal Theory.

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Boisi event

Vlad Perju, Director of the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy, speaks during a lunch colloquium at the Boisi Center on April 11, 2013.

Boisi event
Boisi event

Photos by Boston College MTS Photography

Event Recap

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.

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Further Reading

Ackerman, Bruce. "The Rise of World Constitutionalism," 83 Virginia L. J. 771 (1991).

Azimi, Nassrine. "Constitutionally Sound." The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Dec. 2012. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. <>.

Barry, Brian, "Statism and Nationalism: A cosmopolitan Critique," in Nomos XLI: Global Justice. Eds. Ian Shapiro and Lea Brilmayer. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

Kant, Immanuel. "Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch" in Kant: Political Writings. Ed. Hans Siegbert. Reiss. Cambridge England: Cambridge UP, 1991.

Perju, Vlad. "Cosmopolitanism and Constitutional Self-Government" in International Journal of Constitutional Law, 8 (2010): 326-353.

Stilt, Kristen. "The Iraqi Constitution: A Closer Reading." NPR. N.p., 16 Oct. 2005. Web. 8 Apr. 2013. <>.