Critiques on human rights and comparative law often criticize that an obsession with the universal norm or the “Common Core” erases the diversity and specificity of the local contexts. It is at the same time doubtful, however, that an assertion of “Asian values” could serve as a justification for denying universal human rights to any extent. The ways that tradition or national culture comes into rights practice are more subtle and varied. A constitution is sometimes claimed as an embodiment or representation of national identity and tradition. In other occasions, tradition is challenged as a threat to constitutional rights and principles. This essay examines two illuminating cases adjudicated by the South Korean Constitutional Court Continue reading
1. The collapse of “the West”?
A century after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and more than 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the “Eastern Block”, we may now to be witnessing the collapse of the American Republic and the Western order it created and led after WWII. Whether NATO, the EU and the string of alliances the United States has built across Asia will continue to exist in three or five years is by no means a foregone conclusion, but it has become an open question. Continue reading
It is an obvious point that the global history of constitutionalism cannot plausibly be told as a simple progress narrative. The French and American Revolutions did not trigger an ineluctable steady march of progress. And the end of the Cold War did not bring about the realization of a world made up of liberal constitutional democracies integrated by a global rule of law. Yet it is worthwhile to pause and think more closely about the different ways in which progress narratives might be misguided and in which ways they might not be. Continue reading
Globaler Konstitutionalismus ist etwas für Optimisten. Dass politische Macht in der globalisierten Welt sich der Herrschaft des Rechts, der Demokratie und den Menschenrechten unterwirft, ist nichts, was sich rein faktenorientiert an irgendwelchen Messinstrumenten ablesen ließe – noch viel weniger, dass sie sich diesen konstitutionellen Grundprinzipien auch auf globaler Ebene unterwerfen sollte. Das muss man schon auch glauben wollen, zumal in Zeiten wie diesen, wo sich die Zweifel häufen: Sind diese im Westen entwickelten Verfassungsprinzipien wirklich so universalisierbar, dass sie sich Chinesen, Saudis, Türken und Russen auch dann anempfehlen, wenn diese zunehmend – und zunehmend selbstbewusst – ohne sie zurechtzukommen scheinen? Continue reading
Whatever the true historical origins and philosophical foundations of human rights, their protection has taken a distinctive form in the modern state legal order and, by extension, the state-centred conception of international law. From the American and French Declarations of the ‘Rights of Man’ to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the main purpose of human rights was to organize and legitimize the social compact between the state and its citizens. Continue reading
Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace (1795) might still be the most renowned philosophical voice that outlines – with mild irony – the relevance of the law (of nations) for “World Peace”. Borrowing from Kant’s insight that “war … is only the sad recourse in the state of nature (where there is no tribunal which could judge with the force of law)” (Sixth Preliminary Article), the nineteenth century saw an increasing number of successful attempts by scholars, politicians, and peace activists to put into practice third-party tribunals which arbitrated disputes between states by drawing on international law. Continue reading
There is a way in which great thinkers remain contemporary. This, I believe, is in virtue of the possibility of a continuous re-actualization of their thought in view of contemporary challenges. It is in this sense that I consider Kant’s cosmopolitan theory as guiding our understanding of the standards of the legitimacy of international law. Continue reading