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 42: Legitimacy

Filipe dos Reis and Oliver Kessler


This chapter reconstructs legitimacy as a fundamental concept in international legal thought. In our discussion, we identify four different ‘academic–political’ projects in which legitimacy fulfils a certain function: Thomas M. Franck’s attempt to combine a liberal sensitivity with the empirical rigor of American process approaches; Alan Buchanan’s project to ground legitimacy in liberal global governance institutions; the idea, in the aftermath of NATO’s Kosovo campaign, that interventions can be illegal but nevertheless legitimate; and finally Jutta Brunnée and Stephen M. Toope’s interactional account of international law and the idea of a genuine legal strand of legitimacy. We turn then to the productive or performative dimension of the concept, that is, from what ‘is’ legitimate towards what legitimacy ‘does’ as a concept in international legal thought. Legitimacy becomes then a reflexive concept through which lawyers are able to observe themselves in their context, evaluate their practices and reflect upon their discipline.

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