Ingolf Pernice, LAPA Fellow and Humboldt University, Berlin

Possible Meaning and Implications of Global Constitutionalism

Attached File: 
Mon, 03/30/2009
4:30-6 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall
Event Category: 

Please join us for a LAPA Seminar with LAPA Fellow Ingolf Pernice, Professor and Chair of Public Law, European Law and International Law at Humboldt University, Berlin, who will present the introduction and a chapter from a work-in-progress entitled "Possible Meaning and Implications of Global Constitutionalism."  Karen Alter, Associate Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University and Adjunct Professor of Law, Northwestern University, will be the commentator.

As always, the LAPA format asks that seminar participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator will open the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception in the Kerstetter Room, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Professor Pernice writes:    

  1. The central proposals of this paper are based upon the assumption that in modern societies it is the individual from the perspective of which it is appropriate to assess the constitutional dimension of the evolving system of global governance. On that basis and against the background of the actual discussion on constitutionalism and the constitutionalization of international law and organizations in a fragmented and disaggregated post-Westphalian world, this paper takes from the experiences of the European Union and proposes 
  2. To draw a clear distinction between the terms "constitution", "constitutionalism" and "constitutionalization", the latter being the process by which a constitution may emerge in accordance with the principles and values of constitutionalism.
  3. A "contractual" concept of constitution, understood as the expression of a permanently renewable consensus in the society upon its political organization, setting up institutions, conferring them powers, organizing decision-making, and the political, social and liberal rights so defining the status of the individuals as citizens of the polity so organized.
  4. A "post-national" concept of constitutionalism with the implication that not only states can have a constitution, but also supra- or international sites of public authority, established by international agreements in accordance with constitutional principles, and that the result may be a pluralism of constitutional settings conflicts between which are settled under specific principles.
  5. Multilevel constitutionalism as a normative theory considering the pluralism of constitutions as a specific feature of a constitutional network of vertical and horizontal relations among national constitutions and the constitutional foundations of supranational and global institutions in such a way that they are interdependent, mutually influential, interacting as parts of a composed global constitutional system.

It is suggested that global constitutionalism understood along these terms can be a useful approach for reconsidering not only the legal structure of the international system under the aspects of democratic legitimacy and the protection of individual rights, but also for raising awareness of the often invisible changes national constitutions undergo as a result of the establishment and action of institutions established beyond the state. This could shed a new light on the existing system of global governance and open new perspectives for developing a pluralist global constitutional system, based upon the rule of law.

Ingolf Pernice is the chair of Public,International and European Law at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin since 1996, after ten years of practical experience as a member of the Legal Service of the European Commission and three years professorship at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University of Frankfurt a.M.  He is the founding Director of the Walter Hallstein-Institut for European Constitutional Law (, and coordinator of the European Constitutional Law Network ( His special interests cover antitrust law, international environmental law and, in particular, European constitutional law. He has published several books and articles on these issues and is advising the German government and the European institutions. He is the initiator and spokesman of the Research Training Group "Multilevel Constitutionalism - European Experiences and Global Perspectives" for 15-20 international doctor students, established in 2006 with the support of the German Research Council. He is editing three series of books making the contributions to the annual symposia (ECLN-series) and the lectures of heads of state and government ("Humboldt-Reden zu Europa") and of other specialists of European affairs ("Forum Constitutionis Europae"), which he organizes, available to the public. He is member of the Advisory Board of several journals and involved in three master-programs for European studies. He is acting as the agent for the German Parliament to defend the Treaty of Lisbon in the case pending before the German Federal Constitutional Court.

Karen Alter is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University and author of The European Court's Political Power (Oxford University Press, 2009), and Establishing the Supremacy of European Law: The Making of an International Rule of Law in Europe. (Oxford University Press, 2001). She has also authored numerous articles and book  chapters on international legal systems.  Her most recent manuscripts investigate the politics of international regime complexity,  how delegation of authority to international courts affects national sovereignty, and politics in the Andean legal system.  Alter has been a German Marshall Fund Fellow, a Howard Foundation research fellow and an Emile Noel scholar at Harvard Law School. Her research has also been supported by the DAAD and France's Chateaubriand fellowship. She has been a visiting scholar at the American Bar Foundation where she is an associate scholar of the Center on Law and Globalization, Northwestern University's School of Law, Harvard University's Center for European Studies, Institute d'Etudes Politiques, the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Auswartiges Politik, Universität Bremen, and Seikei University. Fluent in Italian, French and German, Alter serves on the editorial board of European Union Politics and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

This event is cosponsored with the European Union Program.