Authority in Transnational Legal Theory

Authority in Transnational Legal Theory

Theorising Across Disciplines

Elgar Studies in Legal Theory

Edited by Roger Cotterrell and Maksymilian Del Mar

The increasing transnationalisation of regulation – and social life more generally – challenges the basic concepts of legal and political theory today. One of the key concepts being so challenged is authority. This discerning book offers a plenitude of resources and suggestions for meeting that challenge.

Chapter 12: Theorizing transnational authority: a private international law perspective

Horatia Muir Watt

Subjects: law - academic, legal philosophy, legal theory, public international law


The traditional paradigm which frames (international) law’s apprehension of transnational authority leads it to deny legal status to norms that are not state- endorsed or enforced. It explains why the allocatory function of the conflict of laws is not being fulfilled in respect of transnational private authority. Moreover, by disqualifying alternative forms of legitimacy, the methods of this discipline, have worked paradoxically to dis-embed authority in the global economy. This serves as a strong warning signal for the private ‘branch’ of international law, whose recent record of disconnection from the rise of non-state power has left it impotent in both war and crisis. It is argued in this respect that the fundamental difficulty from a global governance perspective is to ensure the re-allocation of responsibility to the sites of non-state authority that still fall outside international law’s empire.

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