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Carl Schmitt and the analogy between constitutional and international law: Are constitutional and international law inherently political?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2013

LARS VINX*
Affiliation:
Department of Philosophy, Bilkent University, 06800 Ankara, Turkey

Abstract

According to Carl Schmitt, constitutional law and international law are analogous in that they are both forms of political law. Schmitt concludes that neither is open to legitimate judicial enforcement. This paper critically explores Schmitt’s analogy between constitutional and international law. It argues that the analogy can be turned against Schmitt and contemporary sceptics about international law: Since we no longer have any reason to deny the judicial enforceability of domestic constitutional law, the analogy now suggests that there is no reason to think that legitimate judicial enforcement of international law is impossible.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013

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References

1 See Posner, EA, The Perils of Global Legalism (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2009); Goldsmith, JL and Posner, EA, The Limits of International Law (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005). Posner’s scepticism about international legality echoes the Austinian view that legality, to be effective, requires enforcement by a sovereign power, and that international law must therefore fail to be more than a form of ‘positive morality’. See Austin, J, The Province of Jurisprudence Determined, edited by Rumble, WE (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995) 123–5, 171. Some authors instead accentuate the normative claim that subjection to international law would be incompatible with popular sovereignty. See Kahn, PW, Political Theology. Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Columbia University Press, New York, 2011) 3190; Rabkin, JA, Law Without Nations? Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2007); Rubenfeld, J, ‘Unilateralism and Constitutionalism’ (2004) 79 New York University Law Review 19712028.

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24 Schmitt, Constitutional Theory (n 11) 140–6.

25 Schmitt, The Concept of the Political (n 20) 46–7. Schmitt had argued as early as 1921 that the condition of normality upon which a liberal constitution must be created through exercises of sovereign dictatorship. See Schmitt, C, Die Diktatur. Von den Anfängen des modernen Souveränitätsgedankens bis zum proletarischen Klassenkampf (2nd edn, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 1928).

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34 For this reason, Schmitt tried to contain the claim of the Weimar Reichsgericht to be a ‘guardian of the constitution’ as far as possible. See Schmitt, ‘Das Reichsgericht als Hüter der Verfassung’ (n 11).

35 Schmitt, Political Theology (n 6) 30–1.

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38 See Schmitt, Der Hüter der Verfassung (n 9) 31–2. This view has roots in Schmitt’s early work on adjudication, which argued that legal determinacy, as a condition of legitimate adjudication, must be grounded in the cultural and ideological homogeneity of the judiciary. See Schmitt, C, Gesetz und Urteil: Eine Untersuchung zum Problem der Rechtspraxis (CH Beck, Munich, 1969).

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45 Debate among post-Hartian legal theorists is typically concerned with the question what judges do when they decide ‘hard cases’, whether they legislate or, in some sense, apply a higher law, not with the question whether hard cases can legitimately be decided by courts. Positivists and natural law theorists agree that they can.

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54 Schmitt, Die Kernfrage des Völkerbundes (n 47) 127–8.

55 Ibid, 86–7, 115–26.

56 Schmitt, Die Kernfrage des Völkerbundes (n 47) 98–114.

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