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 17: Epistemic communities

Andrea Bianchi


‘Epistemic communities’ is a term occasionally used in international legal scholarship to describe fairly heterogeneous social groups that perform functions related to the formation of knowledge in the field of international law. This chapter argues that the ensemble of actors involved in the dynamic processes whereby our knowledge of international law – that is, the understanding of what international law is and how it works – is formed and shaped can be qualified as an ‘epistemic community’. The way in which international law is thought of and practised pretty much makes the epistemic communities that shape our knowledge of international law at the theoretical and practical level. Epistemic communities are also in charge of the social identity of the discipline and the profession. They discharge important communal functions insofar as they represent shared beliefs and interests. By putting forward a common vision of the world, epistemic communities shape the perception of social agents and determine the fundamental tenets of the discourse.

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