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 16: Effectiveness

Gleider I. Hernández


If one of the functions of the law is to prescribe norms of acceptable behaviour to members of a political community, then law’s effectiveness is part of the very idea of law itself, and it is for this reason that the concept of effectiveness operates within a legal order as a technique to adapt law to changing circumstances and, thus, to maintain its relevance to the society which it purports to regulate. Invoking effectiveness serves as an argument that both establishes legal authority and demands legal validation. There is a relative indistinction within the concept that suggests the alignment of the law with reality but also seems to suggest a particular form of alignment – one that entails the legal validation of reality, the coconstitutive dimension of which is perhaps the most striking. In this chapter, I put forward the argument that effectiveness plays a dual role: it exists as a notion to ensure, by its observance, that certain desired results may be achieved, and more prescriptively as a notion which assures, by its very existence, that those same desired results can be achieved. Within legal scholarship, then, effectiveness has historically operated as a sort of bridge between normativity (law) and reality (facts) within international law, serving to sustain the relation between the two.

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