Epistemic Forces in International Law
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Epistemic Forces in International Law

Foundational Doctrines and Techniques of International Legal Argumentation

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.
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Chapter 5: Effectivity

Jean d’Aspremont


This chapter examines the social arrangements pursued by international lawyers through the so-called doctrine of effectivity. Speaking of a doctrine of effectivity can itself be subject to discussion, for it seems that effectivity boils down to an aggregate of constructions operating in distinct doctrines: statehood, responsibility, territory, human rights, etc. Even if it seems debatable that there is such a thing as a doctrine of effectivity, the idea of effectivity is so omnipresent in international discourses and practices that it can be approached through a single lens, especially if the intention is to unearth part of the agenda informing its design and deployment. However, because it may not constitute a foundational doctrine properly so-called, this chapter refers to effectivity as an “idea”. When they think of “effectivity” international lawyers usually come to think of a pragmatic, and factual construction. The idea of “effectivity” is, however, everything but concrete and raises all kinds of questions of legal theory, legal philosophy, epistemology, and theory of knowledge. It should also be highlighted that, from a linguistic standpoint, the word “effectivity” does not exist in British English. The attachment of the International Court of Justice to Her Majesty’s English explains why the World Court uses the French word (effectivité) when it seeks to refer to “effectivity”. These linguistic debates matter less than the semantics and, especially the consensus that “effectivity” ought to be opposed to that of “effectiveness”.

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