Concepts for International Law
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Concepts for International Law

Contributions to Disciplinary Thought

Edited by Jean d’Aspremont and Sahib Singh

Concepts shape how we understand and participate in international legal affairs. They are an important site for order, struggle and change. This comprehensive and authoritative volume introduces a large number of concepts that have shaped, at various points in history, international legal practice and thought; intimates at how the many projects of international law have grappled with, and influenced, the world through certain concepts; and introduces new concepts into the discipline.
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Chapter 5: Bindingness

Jean d’Aspremont

Abstract

In the past decades of international legal thought, the defining role of bindingness has increasingly been approached with scepticism. It is less and less construed as the exclusive genetic code that provides the instructions for the identification and autonomous development of international legal discourses as international lawyers have sought to emancipate themselves from their own genetic heritage. Since the second half of the twentieth century, many international lawyers have come to feel that international legal discourses ought no longer to be structured and developed around the dichotomy between the ‘legally binding’ and the ‘legally nonbinding’. Their emancipatory moves have arguably brought about refreshing dynamism and excitement in international legal thought. And yet, as this chapter argues, bindingness has proved resilient. After recalling the modern understandings and ontological functions of bindingness in international legal discourses, a few observations are formulated on the emancipatory experiments found in recent international legal thought. The chapter ends with some remarks on the resilience of the idea of bindingness as a result of the anxiety and suspicion that has accompanied attempts to alter the genetic code of the discipline.

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