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 18: Social constructivism and the social construction of world economic reality

Sungjoon Cho


In making sense of the world trading system represented by the World Trade Organization (WTO), conventional rationalism aims attention at individual trading nations and their fixed preferences on material benefits, such as expanded access to foreign markets. In contrast with a rationalist optic, this chapter offers a social (constructivist) optic that centres on an emergent normative structure that constitutes WTO members’ identities and guides their actions. The chapter also discusses norm internalization (compliance) as a process in which the WTO reality qua symbolic universe is recognized and maintained in a domestic legal reality. Finally, the chapter addresses various limits of such internalization.

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