This article is based in part on my Tanner Lectures, delivered at the University of California at Berkeley in March 2004. They will appear as Seyla Benhabib, “Reconciling Universalism and Republican Self-Determination,” in The Tanner Lectures Yearbook (Salt Lake City: Utah University Press, forthcoming). A separate publication with commentaries by Bonnie Honig, Will Kymlicka, and Jeremy Waldron is in preparation with Oxford University Press.
On the Alleged Conflict between Democracy and International Law
Article first published online: 30 AUG 2006
Ethics & International Affairs
Volume 19, Issue 1, pages 85–100, March 2005
How to Cite
Benhabib, S. (2005), On the Alleged Conflict between Democracy and International Law. Ethics & International Affairs, 19: 85–100. doi: 10.1111/j.1747-7093.2005.tb00491.x
- Issue published online: 30 AUG 2006
- Article first published online: 30 AUG 2006
The period since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 has witnessed the rise of an international human rights regime. There has been a shift in international law from state-based treaty obligations to cosmopolitan norms whose subject is individuals and their rights and entitlements under international law. Along with the rise of cosmopolitan norms, conflicts between enactments by states, often through democratic legislatures, of laws and practices that may contradict these norms, has also intensified.
The article focuses on one such set of cosmopolitan norms concerning the crossborder rights of immigrants within the context of the European Union. By examining a German Constitutional Court Case which denied long-term resident aliens voting privileges in local and district-wide elections, it illuminates the “paradox of democratic legitimacy.” The rights of foreigners and aliens are an intrinsic aspect of the self-understanding of a democratic people. The demos can alter the boundaries differentiating it from nonmembers. The line between citizenship and alienage can be renegotiated through processes of democratic iterations. Cosmopolitan norms can become guidelines informing the will and opinion formation of democratic peoples.