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Research Handbook on the Theory and History of International Law

Research Handbook on the Theory and History of International Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Alexander Orakhelashvili

This pioneering Research Handbook, with contributions from renowned experts, provides a comprehensive scholarly framework for analyzing the theory and history of international law. Given the multiplication of theoretical approaches over the last three decades, and attendant fragmentation of scholarly efforts, this edited collection presents a useful doctrinal platform that will help academics and students to see the theory and history of international law in its entirety, and to understand how interdependent various aspects of the theory and history of international law really are.


Philip Allott

Subjects: law - academic, public international law


It was unexpected, but inevitable. It was not easy to suppose that the intellectual discipline of International Law would, at last and so readily, recognise the shameful poverty of its theoretical superstructure. When it happened, it was not surprising, given the spectacular increase in the volume and density and complexity and diversity of substantive International Law since 1945. Large-scale social phenomena – religions, political systems, economic systems – generate the ideas necessary to explain and justify them. And the ideas become part of the life of the phenomena, each energising the other in their further development. Law, as a large-scale social phenomenon, has been in such a mutually creative relationship with transcendental ideas throughout the whole of recorded human history. Law, evidently a natural and necessary social phenomenon, has needed an exceptional volume of socially effective ideas to explain and justify its highly coercive actual power in given societies. A law governing governments was obviously something less than a natural or necessary social phenomenon. But, intermittently, the prestige of the word law was borrowed tentatively, defensively, paradoxically, metaphorically – natural law, the law of nations, international law. But it was out of the question that a law governing governments might be able simply to appropriate, for its own purposes of explanation and justification, the vast age-old accumulation of transcendental thinking about the universal phenomenon of law. International Law was obviously an anomaly in relation to that perennial and universal tradition. For some observers, it was too anomalous to be treated seriously as law....