UBC Political Science’s Distinguished Speaker Series hosts University of Toronto Professor of Political Science & Law Dr. Ran Hirschl for his talk titled “Constitutions and the Metropolis” on Friday, March 5, 2021 at 12 pm.
More than half of the world’s population lives in cities; by 2050, it will be more than three quarters. Projections suggest that megacities of 50 million or even 100 million inhabitants will emerge by the end of the century, mostly in the Global South. This shift marks a major and unprecedented transformation of the organization of society, both spatially and geopolitically. While the “age of the city” has attracted considerable attention throughout the social sciences, our constitutional institutions and imagination have failed to keep pace with this new reality. Cities have remained virtually absent from constitutional law and constitutional thought, not to mention from comparative constitutional studies more generally. In this talk, based on his recent book City, State: Constitutionalism and the Megacity (Oxford University Press, 2020), Professor Hirschl considers the reasons for the near-complete constitutional silence concerning the metropolis and urban agglomeration more generally (the U.S. and Canada are prime examples); probes the origins and consequences of the constitutional empowerment of cities in several Global South countries (e.g. Brazil, India, South Africa, Mexico); and advances novel arguments for granting the city adequate constitutional standing while attempting to mitigate the urban/rural divide. As the world is urbanizing at an extraordinary rate, Hirschl argues, new thinking about constitutionalism and urbanization, and about the spatial dimensions of constitutional governance more generally, is desperately needed.
Ran Hirschl (PhD, Yale University) is Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of Toronto, holder of the Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in Comparative Constitutionalism at the University of Göttingen, and head of the Max Planck Fellow Group in Comparative Constitutionalism. He is the author of several major books, including City, State: Constitutionalism and the Megacity (Oxford University Press, 2020); Comparative Matters: The Renaissance of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford University Press, 2014), winner of the 2015 APSA Herman Pritchett Award for the best book on law and courts; Constitutional Theocracy (Harvard University Press, 2010), winner of the 2011 Mahoney Prize in legal theory; and Towards Juristocracy (Harvard University Press, 2004), as well as more than 120 articles and book chapters on constitutional law and its intersection with comparative politics and society. Professor Hirschl has won academic excellence awards in five different countries and held distinguished visiting professorships at Harvard, NYU and NUS. His work on the intersection of social science and public law has been translated into various languages, discussed in numerous scholarly fora, cited by jurists and in high court decisions (most recently by the Supreme Court of Canada in November 2020), and addressed in media venues from the New York Times to the Jerusalem Post. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC). The official citation describes him as “one of the world’s leading scholars of comparative constitutional law, courts and jurisprudence.”