Reconciling MacCormick: Constitutional Pluralism and the Unity of Practical Reason



This article begins by assessing the ways in which the life and work of Neil MacCormick exemplified a dual commitment to the local and particular—especially through his advocacy of nationalism—and to the international and the universal. It then concentrates on one of the key tensions in his work which reflected that duality, namely the tension between his longstanding endorsement of constitutional pluralism—and so of the separate integrity of different “local” constitutional orders—and his belief in some kind of unity, and so community, residing in the moral and rational properties of all law. The article continues by considering a number of ways in which this tension may be resolved. It concludes, with particular reference to MacCormick's late work on ethics, that the answer may be found through the idea of a general unity of practical reason which undergirds the various special orders of practical reason by which particular legal systems are distinguished.