Research Handbook on the Sociology of International Law
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Research Handbook on the Sociology of International Law

Edited by Moshe Hirsch and Andrew Lang

Bringing together a highly diverse body of scholars, this comprehensive Research Handbook explores recent developments at the intersection of international law, sociology and social theory. It showcases a wide range of methodologies and approaches, including those inspired by traditional social thought as well as less familiar literature, including computational linguistics, performance theory and economic sociology. The Research Handbook highlights anew the potential contribution of sociological methods and theories to the study of international law, and illustrates their use in the examination of contemporary problems of practical interest to international lawyers.
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Chapter 10: The practice of litigation at the ICJ: the role of counsel in the development of international law

Gregory Messenger


This chapter examines the practice of litigation at the International Court of Justice. By building on conceptual frames developed by Pierre Bourdieu, it focuses not on the practice of the ‘Court’ but on the practice of international legal counsel. In doing so it contrasts traditional accounts of how international law is made by states and then identified and interpreted by courts, with an account of a cooperative process of law-making exercised by international legal counsel, technical assistants, and diplomats in concert with judges and secretariats of international tribunals. It is argued that together they form a social space in which their competition is based on implicitly agreed rules (most of which are non-legal in nature), and that such a process is to the benefit of a number of actors involved, though states are not necessarily principal among these. By examining the physical and verbal cues of practitioners at the Court through a Bourdieusian lens, this chapter presents a pilot study for a reappraisal of the relationship between the practice of litigants and their influence on the content and practice of international law.

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