Cohen, Kelsen and the Question of Cosmopolitanism

Peter Langford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


The article considers that the relationship between the work of the Neo-Kantian philosopher, Hermann Cohen, and the legal theorist, Hans Kelsen has been shaped by a tendency to detach, and render relatively unthematized, the question of the cosmopolitan orientation of their work. The reintroduction of the question of cosmopolitanism enables the relationship between the theoretical projects of Cohen and Kelsen to be reconsidered in which Kelsen’s development of a pure theory of law contains a sustained critique of the ‘dogma of the state’, which has as its necessary corollary a theory of legal monism. These elements are, in turn, the articulation of the potential for an international juridical order, in its primacy over states, to encompass the possibility for world peace. The revelation of the cosmopolitan orientation of Kelsen’s pure theory of law then offers the capacity to reconfigure the relationship to Cohen on the basis of the question of cosmopolitanism. In this reconfiguration, the characterization of their relationship becomes that of identity and difference: a shared cosmopolitanism combined with a divergent articulation of its theoretical foundation and development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-43
JournalRphZ Zeitschrift für Grundlagen des Rechts
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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