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 56: State

Tom Sparks


The State is one of the central concepts of the contemporary international legal system: it is omnipresent in international legal scholarship and practice. Direct references to the system’s subject legislators are ubiquitous, but perhaps even more significant are the innumerable indirect references made to the idea by way of the multitude of concepts which allude to or draw meaning from it. In these ways the concept of the State structures the international legal system, and three of those structural functions are discussed in this chapter: personification, delineation and identification. The chapter argues that these functions, operationalized by international lawyers, define the limits of the international legal system’s reality, transforming fluid sociopolitical processes into a legal ‘truth’ which exists in a conceit of timelessness. In so doing, the concept of the State (to borrow from Giddens) both enables and constrains the international legal system.

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