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Five Questions with Vlad Perju

Richard Albert, Boston College Law School

In “Five Questions” here at I-CONnect, we invite a public law scholar to answer five questions about his or her research.

This edition of “Five Questions” features Vlad Perju, Director of the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy and Professor of Law at Boston College Law School. His full bio follows below:

Vlad Perju is the Director of the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy at Boston College and Professor of Law at Boston College Law School. His primary research and teaching interests include the law of the European Union, comparative constitutional law and theory, international and comparative law and jurisprudence.

Before joining the Boston College faculty in 2007, Perju was awarded a doctorate from Harvard Law School under the supervision of Professor Frank Michelman with a dissertation entitled “The Province of Cosmopolitan Jurisprudence: Constitutional Foundations”. He earned two law degrees from the University of Bucharest and the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, an LLM degree summa cum laude from the European Academy of Legal Theory in Brussels, Belgium and graduated from the LL.M. program at Harvard (degree waived).  While at Harvard, he served as a Byse Fellow, a Safra Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics and a Research Fellow in Amartya Sen’s Project on Justice, Welfare and Economics.

Perju was a Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard Law School in the Fall Term 2011 and a Visiting Professor of the Theory of the State at the European Academy of Legal Theory in Brussels, Belgium.

Perju was awarded the 2009 Ius Commune Prize for his article entitled “Reason and Authority in the European Court of Justice” (49 Virginia Journal of International Law 307). His paper “Cosmopolitanism and Constitutional Self-Government” was selected for presentation at the 2010 Yale/Stanford Junior Faculty Forum. In the Fall 2009, Professor Perju was a research fellow at NYU Law School. He has been an affiliate of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University since the Spring 2010.

In 2008 Professor Perju was appointed by the President of Romania to a seven-member Commission on Constitution Reform. He remains actively involved in the process of constitutional reform both in Romania as well as in the European Union. Some of his commentary can be found here (in English) and here (in Romanian).

At Boston College, he teaches courses in the Law of the European Union, American and Comparative Constitutional Law, The Past and Future of the State, as well as advanced seminars on European Integration and Modern Legal Theory.

1. Tell us about something you are working on right now.

Two projects. The first develops a doctrine of transnational structural norms in constitutional law. The context for this project is the erosion of constitutional democracy and my question is how the judiciary could use this new doctrine to protect the integrity of structural features such as judicial independence through reliance on their transjurisdictional dimension. The second project revisits the traditional understanding of supremacy of EU law. Existing accounts conceptualize supremacy as necessarily bidirectional, in the sense that the reception of EU supremacy within national jurisdictions is not external but constitutive of the claim to supremacy itself. I have serious doubts about the soundness of this approach, both normatively and descriptively. This paper is the third installment in my larger attempt to revisit some of the fundamentals of European constitutionalism. Another work, which I completed this summer, argues that human rights were present at the genesis of the European legal order, and thus did not enter European constitutionalism from municipal law, as the influential and self-serving account of the German Constitutional Court would have us believe. The other paper challenges Habermas’s influential theory of dual sovereignty in the EU as too deferential to nation-states and insufficiently attuned to the constitutional project of European unification.

2. How and when do you write? Do you have a routine or do you write whenever and wherever you find the time?

I write when I’m ready to write. Unless, of course, life has other plans. And, having small children, life frequently does have other plans. When that happens, I write whenever I find time.  I should add that it was helpful for my writing once I realized how my various projects fit together.

3. Whose scholarship jumps to the top of your reading list when she or he publishes something new? 

As the director of the Clough Center, which is an interdisciplinary center at Boston College, I have to be alert to new scholarship across fields. This means that my reading list is somewhat eclectic, more so than one would typically expect even from a comparative con law scholar. I can tell you that right now, for example, I’m reading recent work on the Russian revolution for a program we’re putting together this Fall, as well as Andrea Sangiovanni’s Humanity without Dignity, Daniel Ziblatt’s recent book on conservative parties and the origins of democracy.

4. Is there an article or book that influenced you as a student and that continues today to be an important reference point for you?

It’s hard to mention just one. Kant’s Perpetual Peace is a great example of putting what at the time was a bold vision of cosmopolitanism to the discipline of reason. Roberto Unger’s 1976 lectures in social theory at Harvard have also been formative, as has engagement with John Rawls’s Theory of Justice and Political Liberalism–each for different reasons. Finally, I had the good fortune to be Frank Michelman’s doctoral student, and learned from him and his scholarship the indispensable lesson of intellectual integrity in scholarly work.

5. What are some of the big questions ripe for inquiry in your area of research interest?

In European legal thought, we need to challenge the consensus around constitutional pluralism. In comparative constitutional law, we need to draw more on the venerable traditions of comparative private law as sources of insight, especially–but not exclusively–on methodological matters. Finally, in constitutional law more generally, especially in the United States, we need to offer institutional proposals and to defend the theoretical foundations of cosmopolitan alternatives to constitutional nationalism.

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Published on August 10, 2017
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