Supranational Public Reason: Part One - A Theory

26 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2015

See all articles by Wojciech Sadurski

Wojciech Sadurski

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: January 21, 2015


The usual response to the dilemma raised by the evident absence of democratic legitimacy at the supranational level, where strong authorities beyond nation-states have emerged, has been an attempt to uncouple the strict link between national statehood and democracy, and in the process, to confer a degree of legitimacy on supranational authorities. This working paper argues that such an uncoupling is unconvincing, and that, within the legitimacy-democracy-statehood triangle, the uncoupling of legitimacy and democracy is a more promising strategy. The legitimacy of supranational authorities is grounded in the type of arguments provided by supranational entities, and, in particular, their appeal to “public reason”, which is a legitimacy-conferring device well suited to supranational authorities. The paper concludes by reflecting upon the relationship between constitutional and international law, as viewed in light of the emergence of a legitimate authority beyond the states, and in particular argues against the primacy of constitutional over international law – an idea favored by the insistence on democratic pedigree as the privileged source of authority in a multi-level system of governance.

Keywords: Legitimacy, Public Reason, Democracy, Supranational authorities, John Rawls

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Sadurski, Wojciech, Supranational Public Reason: Part One - A Theory (January 21, 2015). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 15/02. Available at SSRN: or

Wojciech Sadurski (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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