Legal Duty Beyond Borders: Value Pluralism and the Possibility of Cosmopolitan Law


I argue, first, that while cosmopolitanism conflicts with the thesis of value pluralism, a ―minimalist‖ moral cosmopolitanism, properly circumscribed, can be construed as consistent with value pluralism.17 Second, I argue that despite their theoretical affinities, value pluralism offers a compelling critique of both liberalism and cosmopolitanism, and their respective attempts to justify an extraterritorial legal, as opposed to a moral, duty to sanction conduct beyond our borders in the absence of substantial consensus on norms of conduct. For pluralists, the cosmopolitan‘s attempt to derive an extraterritorial legal duty creates significant dangers, and is likely to result in the prioritization and imposition of one culture‘s norms and laws on another culture. In Part I, I provide an account of the political concept of legal duty, cosmopolitanism, and minimalist legal cosmopolitanism. In Part II, I illustrate the subversive implications of value pluralism for the political concept of duty and for liberal political morality generally. In Part III, I demonstrate that despite the merits and similarities of minimalist legal cosmopolitanism, value pluralism provides a compelling challenge to any coherent account of extraterritorial legal duties absent traditional mechanisms of consent such as treaties, and in doing so, embraces a diverse moral world where borders are becoming increasingly anachronistic and duties more difficult to discern.


Extraterritorial Grants of Jurisdiction, Cosmopolitan Theory, Value Pluralism, Political Borders



William F. Helmken (Washington University School of Law)



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