Comparative Matters: Response to Interlocutors

32 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2016

Date Written: October 10, 2016


Despite the tremendous renaissance of comparative constitutional law, the comparative aspect of the enterprise, as a method and a project, remains under-theorized and imprecise. In a recent book of mine, Comparative Matters: The Renaissance of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press, 2014), I address this gap by charting the intellectual history and analytical underpinnings of comparative constitutional inquiry, probing the various types, aims, and methodologies of engagement with the constitutive laws of others through the ages, and exploring how and why comparative constitutional inquiry has been and ought to be pursued by academics and jurists worldwide. The future of comparative constitutional studies, I contend, lies in relaxing the sharp divide between constitutional law and the social sciences.

This essay is part of a Boston Law Review symposium on Comparative Matters. It responds to creative and challenging interventions by Anna di Robilant, Tom Ginsburg, Vicki Jackson and Katharine Young. All four contributors to this symposium see great virtue in one variant or another of my call for a more interdisciplinary scholarship in comparative public law. At the same time, the contributions to this symposium raise several powerful concerns that, at least in my reading, are aimed to complement and problematize, not to dismiss, the arguments I put forth in Comparative Matters. I address each of these challenges in turn.

More than a book symposium per se, this multi-participant exchange sparks precisely the kind of conversation I had hoped Comparative Matters would generate. The four responses, as well as the groundswell of reaction elsewhere, affirm the significance of such a discussion. Taken as a whole, this symposium reveals both the tremendous intellectual potential and the challenges present in seeking to turn the promise of interdisciplinary discourse, methodological pluralism, and problem-driven inquiry into a reality for comparative constitutional studies.

Keywords: comparative constitutional law, comparative law, comparative constitutionalism, comparative method, social science, interdisciplinary inquiry

Suggested Citation

Hirschl, Ran, Comparative Matters: Response to Interlocutors (October 10, 2016). Boston University Law Review, Vol. 96, No. 4 (2016), pp. 1393-1424, Available at SSRN:

Ran Hirschl (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

78 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5

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