Epistemic Forces in International Law

Epistemic Forces in International Law

Foundational Doctrines and Techniques of International Legal Argumentation

Elgar International Law series

Jean d’Aspremont

Epistemic Forces in International Law examines the methodological choices of international lawyers through considering theories of statehood, sources, institutions and law-making. From this examination, Jean d'Aspremont presents a discerning insight into the way in which international lawyers shape their arguments to secure validation within the international law community.

Chapter 4: Institutions

Jean d’Aspremont

Subjects: law - academic, public international law


This chapter looks at some of the paradigmatic contradictions in the doctrines forming the so-called law of international organizations as well as the underlying social arrangements informing such tensions. Before looking at these paradigmatic tensions, a preliminary question must be raised. It pertains to the coexistence of tensions with the very idea of a law of international organizations. Can one build a “law of international organizations” – and thus the techniques, methods, and narratives that go with it – on dichotomous grounds? The answer to the above-mentioned question is affirmative as long as the professionals, claiming some membership to it, excel in the art of reconciliation. The law of international organizations epitomizes such a possibility. After submitting that most scholarly and practical debates about the law of international organizations can be construed as a battle between arguments based on the idea of contract and those based on the idea of constitution, this chapter discusses international legal scholars’ attempt to translate this tension into a dynamic and dialectic framework. As the argument developed in the following paragraphs goes, international legal scholars, and especially legal academics, while unanimously acknowledging the existence of paradigmatic tensions, are often tempted to iron them out through the promotion of a series of dialectical concepts or moves. This chapter is thus an exercise of discourse analysis which will seek to shed light on such dialectical tactics, with an emphasis on international legal scholarship.

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