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 12: Practice theory and international law

Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Mark A. Pollack


Curiously, international legal scholars closely examine the ‘practice’ of international law, yet they rarely study international legal practices. This chapter reviews – and advocates for – the application of sociological theories of ‘practice’ to the study of international law. Practice theory provides a conceptual framework and analytic tools that enable scholars to identify and understand the complex social practices whereby international law is made, interpreted, and applied in the contemporary world. Following a brief introduction to practice theory, this chapter traces the movement of practice theory to the international level in international relations theory, and examines the much more recent and tentative adoption of practice approaches by international legal scholars. The chapter then focuses on international judicial practices, and reviews efforts to describe and explain the large number and variety of practices that have arisen in and around international courts and tribunals. The chapter briefly addresses epistemological and methodological questions of how best to access and study of international legal and judicial practices that often take place outside of public view. A brief conclusion outlines an agenda for future research in this young and rapidly developing field of study.

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