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 14: Discourse

Florian Hoffmann

Abstract

Discourse has been a key and increasingly pervasive concept in international law, even if it has retained a somewhat abstract and multifaceted connotation. First used in the (European) Renaissance to denote reflections on matters of state(hood), the concept went on – not least through the work of Michel Foucault – to refer to the particular form of governmentality represented by modern international law. Hence, discourse and/in international law concerns both the cognitive landscape of the world and its peoples which this modern international law constructs and which it (thereby) governs, as well as the ways in which international law has reflected upon itself, notably by theorizing its epistemic horizon and the practices attached to it. This chapter therefore seeks first to briefly explore in which ways the discourse of international law has shaped ‘the modern world’, and second to sketch in broad strokes the various theoretical discourses – and counterdiscourses – through which international law thematises itself.

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