Saturday, 17 April 2004

From "A political constitution for the pluralist world society?"

By Jürgen Habermas.

Hobbes interpreted the relationship between law and security in functionalist terms: the citizens, subjected to law, obtained from the state the guarantee of protection in exchange for their unconditional obedience. By contrast, for Kant the pacifying function of law remains intertwined conceptually with the freedomgenerating function of a legal condition that the citizens recognize as legitimate. Kant no longer operates with Hobbes’ empiricist concept of law. For the validity of law is based not only externally on the threat of sanction by the state, but also intrinsically on the reasons for the claim that it deserves recognition by its addressees. However, with the idea of a transition from state-centered international law to a cosmopolitan law Kant also set his work off from Rousseau’s approach.

He bids farewell to the republican conception that popular sovereignty finds an expression in the external sovereignty of the state, in other words that the democratic self-determination of the people is conceptually linked to the collective self-assertion of a corresponding form of life, if necessary with military means.

Kant recognizes the fact that the democratic will is rooted in the ethos of a people. But that is not sufficient evidence for the conclusion that the capacity of a democratic constitution to bind and rationalize political force be constrained to a specific nation state. For the universalistic thrust of the constitutional principles of a nation state points beyond the limits of national traditions that shape, of course, the local features of particular constitutional orders.

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