Kelsen’s Idea of a World State (Weltstaat)


  • Tomasz Widłak University of Gdańsk



Kelsen, international law, world state, Weltstaat, pure science of law, pure theory of law


This article offers an analysis of the meaning of the term ‘world state’ (Weltstaat) as used by Hans Kelsen in his work on international legal theory. The author argues that Kelsen understands the term solely as a legal concept. Reconstruction of Kelsen’s understanding of the notion of world state begins with a summary of Kelsen’s reductionist doctrine of the state and its identity with law. Secondly, the analysis moves to Kelsen’s radical deconstruction of sovereignty. Thirdly, Kelsen’s doctrine of evolution of legal orders along the axis of centralization is considered. These considerations lead to the assertion that Kelsen’s Weltstaat shows in fact more affinity with the concept of the international community rather than a fully-fledged state. The article concludes that Kelsen’s world state is only a theoretical possibility, a stage in the evolution of legal orders and a common point of imputation rather than a manifestation of any cosmopolitan agenda.


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Author Biography

Tomasz Widłak, University of Gdańsk

PhD and D.Sc. in law, Master of Law from the University of Gdańsk and the University of Antwerp, associate professor at the Department of Theory and Philosophy of Law and State at the University of Gdańsk. Author of over 100 publications in theory and philosophy of law, international legal theory and international law, medical law and ethics. He was the Principal Investigator in the project “Neo-Kelsenian theory of international law” granted by the Polish National Science Centre. Currently, he leads research in another project financed by the National Science Centre titled “Judges and Virtues. A study in the aretaic theory of the judiciary.”


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How to Cite

Widłak, Tomasz. 2021. “Kelsen’s Idea of a World State (Weltstaat)”. Politeja 18 (3(72):175-91.