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Self-Reference of the Constitutional State: A Systems Theory Interpretation of the Kelsen-Schmitt Debate

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This article reinterprets the Kelsen-Schmitt debate in the context of social systems theory and rethinks its major concepts as part of legal and political self-reference and systemic differentiation. In Kelsen?s case, it is the exclusion of sovereignty from juridical logic that opens a way to the self-reference of positive law. Similarly, Schmitt constructed his concept of the political as a self-referential system of political operations protected from the social environment by the medium of power. The author argues that the process of legal and political globalisation rules out the possibility of formulating substantive theories of the state associating this particular social organisation with metaphysical values and a self-validating collective identity. Kelsen and Schmitt continue to inspire current theories of non-metaphysical globalised law and politics. However, the constitutional state and sovereignty need to be reformulated as a meeting point of functionally differentiated and globalised legal and political communications and not as their ultimate end.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Jurisprudence provides a forum for scholarly writing on the philosophy of law. While demanding the utmost intellectual honesty, clarity and scholarly rigour, its editorial policy is distinctively open-minded in relation to philosophical approach. A main purpose of the journal is to encourage scholarship which explores and transcends the categories and assumptions on which contemporary jurisprudential debates are conducted, and to stimulate reflection upon traditional questions concerning the nature of law, politics and society. The journal's unique reviews section will provide in-depth discussion and analysis of major developments in the field. Jurisprudence aims: " to encourage research exploring the relation between questions in the philosophy of law and debates in related branches of philosophy, including but not limited to political philosophy, moral philosophy, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of mind; " to support study of the intellectual history of the philosophy of law, both for its own sake and in order to shed light on contemporary jurisprudential questions; " to encourage careful research illuminating relations between jurisprudential questions and theoretical debates in anthropology, sociology, cultural and literary studies. Replies and correspondence pieces will be generally discouraged, although may be acceptable if the intention is to deepen and extend an original line of thought, and not merely to reiterate or amplify an earlier argument.


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