The starting point for my book “A Global History of Ideas in the Language of Law” which will soon be published in the series “Global Perspectives on Legal History” is the (hopefully) uncontroversial finding that the history of ideas can be written as a history of languages. This approach has been elaborated by the so-called “Cambridge School of Intellectual History”, especially in their influential writings about the languages circulating in the discourses on the legitimacy of political orders. The protagonists of the school (Pocock, Skinner et al.) coined the term “languages of politics” for the languages thus analyzed, underlining the political nature of their genesis, use and reproduction. Continue reading
The widespread contemporary understanding of the New Haven School runs as follows. In the 1940s American power rises. Shrugging the formalism of international law, Hans Morgenthau, George F. Kennan and great power politics announce a new paradigm. Myres McDougal senses the zeitgeist the realists have captured and leads a ‘legal’ response. Positivist social science is instrumentally refashioned as ‘policy-science’, the lawyer policy-scientist pitched as the anti-communist power behind the throne. The story tends to be completed by one of two alternative conclusions. For some critics this ends as a story of Cold Warrior lawyers hawking a method skewed to imperial American policy. A cautionary tale of lawyers losing sight of legality in a clash between ‘realism’ and ‘legalism’. A moral of this critical story tends to be that policy-oriented lawyers were bought out of their vocation by hegemony and neoliberalism. Continue reading
What is a topic in international law scholarship? Any answer will most probably include the term “relevance”, perhaps also a reference to some “general interest”. Such a (rather quantitative) answer will evaluate what international law scholars actually write about at a given time. It will conclude from a list of publications that some topics have been considered more relevant than others by international law scholars, as they wrote more about the former topics and less (or nothing) about the others which subsequently may be considered less relevant – even “irrelevant”.
Another way of responding to the question may include a geographical aspect – the question then changes into “what topic is relevant where?” This question occurred to me when I wrote my article “African International Legal Histories” (2018) in response to a call for papers which asked “why it is that we write the [international legal] histories we write” and “what questions we fail to explore”. Continue reading