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 38: Justice

Frédéric Mégret


The idea of justice occupies an ill-defined space within international law, as an ideal that is quite distinct from the law itself and one that international law should not be specifically concerned with as a structuring force. Thinking about the justice of international law raises disciplinary and methodological dilemmas. International justice can be understood as merely the sort of justice that is produced institutional by international jurisdictions, a limited meaning that has nonetheless evolved considerably as a result of international law’s own evolutions and that provides a first rough map as to where might one locate justice within international law. Rather than international lawyers extrapolating about the sort of justice that courts, in fact, produce, one can alternatively think of international justice as a branch of political theory looking from the outside at the sort of arrangements that international law promotes, not just judicially but most importantly substantively. Not all theories of justice are interested in how actual international law works, but some are. Classical international lawyers may find some affinity with the more statist and communitarian-oriented forms of theorizing about international justice. Finally, a number of thinkers operating at the intersection of law and philosophy have sought to conceptualize the justice of international law starting not from ideal theories of justice but the actual practice of international law. Although this can be a methodologically fraught exercise that can end up in an apology of the morality of international law, it is also one that takes the specificity of international legal justice outputs seriously and seeks to understand international law on its own terms.

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