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The Unsolved Riddle of International Constitutionalism

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The extremely diverse contributions present in the volume edited by Nicholas Tsagourias, Transnational Constitutionalism: International Law and European Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 377) are contextualized through an exploration of some of the different strands of international legal doctrine that have been making use of the constitutionalist vernacular in recent years. These strands include among others, the growth in European Union-related constitutionalist discourse and the emergence of a transnational comparative legal realm at the cross-roads of the European and the international spheres; the historical lineage and the contemporary appeal of the constitutional vernacular in the field of international organizations; and the phenomenon of the fragmentation of international law along with the upholding, in reaction to that fragmentation, of a hierarchy of international legal norms. It also includes an examination of the emergence of alternative vocabularies that sustain a “fragmented/societal” model of constitutionalism on the basis of systems-theory as well as an examination of a constitutionalist value ridden perspective of the international legal order that, in mirroring recent developments, attempts to “restate” a classic teleologically conceived narrative of progress without yet leaving the realm of positivism. This article, which confronts “in fine” the “international community school” with its critics, does not aim to provide a complete deconstructed genealogy of each converging strand of doctrine that one might locate behind the current appeal of constitutionalist talk at the dawn of a post-hegemonic era. Yet it is hoped that it might serve as a reminder of the multifaceted factors that lie behind the contemporary renewal of the international constitutionalist arena and, thus, help to strengthen the latter’s potential as a benchmark for diagnosing the legitimacy deficit(s) of international law.

Affiliations: 1: Visiting Fellow in Global Governance, Law and Social Thought, The Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University Providence, RI, USA


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