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 43: Normativity

Anne van Mulligen


Legal assertions, arguments and decisions are normative performances as they are routinely evaluated in terms of shared standards of correct and incorrect. This chapter examines the role of normativity in the current discourse regarding the deformalization of international law and global governance. International lawyers have sought to articulate formal normativity as a platform for the contestation of neoliberal governance. Yet the appeal to formal legal normativity is also widely discredited as an appeal to a ‘permissive discourse of necessity’ that limits opportunities for political contestation. This chapter considers what normativity might amount to in light of the indeterminate character and political appropriation of international law’s standards of correctness and delineates a move from rule-based accounts of normativity towards accounts that emphasize its social constitution. It concludes with an examination of how we might understand formal legal normativity as part of an argumentative practice that both opens up and restricts political space.

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