CCCS Seminar: Why Modern Constitutionalism Rests on a Mistake

Thursday, 26 September, 2013 - 14:00 to 15:00

As understood in orthodox liberal constitutional theory, the main goal of modern constitutional law is to limit state power. In this presentation, Associate Professor Ramraj will explain why this understanding of constitutionalism is flawed and what we could do to rehabilitate it. Associate Professor Ramraj's basic claim, which draws on his research for a larger book project, is that modern constitutionalism, in theory and practice, is unable to account for configurations of private power (particularly in the form of multinational corporations) that escape the regulatory reach of most nation-states, or for the rise of transnational regulatory bodies: whether intergovernmental, private, and hybrid (public and private). This presentation will briefly explore these developments before showing: (a) how they challenge the basic assumptions of modern constitutionalism and (b) how modern constitutional law has failed, in practice, to adapt to these transformations of transnational private and public power. Associate Professor Ramraj will then suggest how domestic constitutional law might adapt to these changes, both by claiming a non-exclusive public law role in the supervision of global regulators and by empowering non-state actors to engage in the regulation of global problems where states are unable or unwilling to do so.


Victor V. Ramraj is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. He has qualifications in law (LLB, Toronto; LLM, Queen's University Belfast) and philosophy (BA, McGill; MA, PhD, Toronto) and is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada. He twice served as the NUS law school's Vice-Dean for Academic Affairs (2006-2010, 2011-2012) and for one year, from 2010-2011, as a co-director of the Center for Transnational Legal Studies in London. Before joining NUS, he served as a judicial law clerk at the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa and as a litigation lawyer in Toronto. His current areas of research include constitutional law and theory, emergency powers, globalisation, and legal history. He has edited and co-edited several books for Cambridge University Press, including Emergencies and the Limits of Legality (2009) and Emergency Powers in Asia: Exploring the Limits of Legality (2010). His scholarly work has been published in, among others, the Chicago-Kent Law Review, Hong Kong Law Journal, International Journal of Constitutional Law, International Journal of Law in Context, Singapore Journal of International and Comparative Law, Singapore Journal of Legal Studies, South African Journal on Human Rights, and Transnational Legal Theory. He is working on a book on the future of domestic constitutions.


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Room 920, Level 9


Melbourne Law School 185 Pelham Street Carlton VIC 3053


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