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Title: The state as a moral person and the problem of transgenerational binding
Author: Leshem, Ela A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 6707
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Modern states are committed to the implicit assumption that one generation has the normative power to bind later generations through laws and contracts. My dissertation explores this assumption through two case studies: constitutions and sovereign debt contracts. I show that in both cases the assumption of transgenerational binding shapes the legal practices and doctrines of modern states. It informs, for instance, the ratification of eternity clauses, the interpretation of constitutions, and the doctrines of sovereign immunity and odious debt. But although these practices of transgenerational binding are prevalent in modern states, they stand in tension, I argue, with the liberal moral commitments of these states. Liberals are committed to moral individualism, according to which only individual human beings (and some nonhuman animals) are moral persons. Moral individualism, I show, is incompatible with the assumption of transgenerational binding and its accompanying practices and doctrines. By contrast, moral statism, according to which states themselves are moral persons, can easily justify those transgenerational practice. But moral statist justifications are illiberal because they assign states intrinsic moral status above and beyond individual human beings. I argue that liberals must engage in revisionism whichever theory of political obligation they pick - whether it is a theory of agreement, restitution, justice, reciprocity, or instrumentalism. If liberals assume moral individualism and combine it with any of these theories, they will be forced either to declare some transgenerational practices and doctrines illegitimate or to revise the justification and scope of transgenerational binding in light of instrumentalism. If liberals choose moral statism, they will be able to justify the transgenerational doctrines and practices of constitutions and sovereign debt contracts - but only at the cost of illiberalism. The dissertation's analysis thus shows that liberals face a trilemma between illegitimacy, instrumentalism, and illiberalism.
Supervisor: Bader, Ralf ; Caney, Simon Sponsor: Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: intergenerational obligations ; constitutions ; moral statism ; state personality ; moral individualism, ; future generations ; sovereignty ; sovereign debt contracts