“There has never been and there will never be a nation state.”

“There has never been and there will never be a nation state.” 06 October 2014

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of our dear friend, Patrick Glenn. He participated in HiiL’s research project on the changing role of highest courts and was Henry G. Schermers Fellow at HiiL between 2010 and 2011. In that last capacity, Patrick helped us tremendously with untangling the many threads we had s when developing the Law Scenarios to 2030. His thinking lives on in them. He will be dearly missed.

As a person, we came to know him as warm, funny, wise, humble, generous, and kind. As a thinker he was tremendously inspiring, incessantly curious, able to bridge many worlds, and incredibly sharp. Rather than using a doctrine to look at the complicated world, he used his perspective as his point of departure. He was even ready to challenge the laws of logic.

That the ‘State’ needs to be questioned is the central tenet of Patrick’s last book, The Cosmopolitan State, (Oxford University Press 2013) which he wrote as Henry G. Schermers Fellow. We are very proud to be associated with it.

Let me go back to one of the conversations with Patrick I remember the most . I didn’t (and still don’t) have the intellectual horsepower to follow Patrick in all the details of what he said, but the main thrust of the question he asked, and the framework he sought to develop, has been etched into my thinking and doing.

We were talking about The State, globalisation, the movement of ideas, people, and institutions, and of laws and legal systems becoming more and more intertwined, . Observing this, and with his characteristically witty smile, Patrick took the conversation beyond the law and went to the laws of logic that formed much of their foundation. He challenged me to challenge them and, when I was most confused, pulled out a new form of logic: multivalent logic. As he writes in The Cosmopolitan State: “a turn away from classical and binary logic towards a recognition that the world is a more complex place than that contemplated by Plato’s methodology of divisio.” (at 265). In short: “replacing a binary option with one that tolerates degrees” (at 267). The consequences of this thought are significant: a different, more open form of logic accepts the fact of contradictory norms (which we see quite often in our daily lives). This new logic is less about consistency and more a construction of hierarchy.

His point becomes very clear when looking at the States of the World? today. Some are fairly clear and stable. Others suffer from various degrees of failure. In the binary world of UN law, Somalia is as much a ‘state’ as Denmark. And yet, we all know that in reality that is not the case. In my eyes, the UK was a stable unit, until Scotland’s referendum came along. That will change ‘the State’ of both the UK and of Scotland. Another example he mentions is the art of ‘balancing of rights’, in which more and more judges are engaged, a process which “is inherently cosmopolitan in its ability to bridge multiple and apparently conflicting sources, state or non-state in origin.”

Patrick greatly enriched us with this kind of thinking and we will forever be grateful to him. It helps us deal with the law we seek to build: law that is connected with the real lives of people and their organisations--not law as a construct for its own sake.