Pluralising International Legal Scholarship
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Pluralising International Legal Scholarship

The Promise and Perils of Non-Doctrinal Research Methods

Edited by Rossana Deplano

This unique book examines the role non-doctrinal research methods play in international legal research: what do they add to the traditional doctrinal analysis of law and what do they neglect? Focusing on empirical and socio-legal methods, it provides a critical evaluation of the breadth, scope and limits of the representation of international law created by these often-neglected methodologies.
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Chapter 7: The perils of quantitative research in international law

Gabriel M. Lentner


In 1935, Felix Cohen predicted an empirical turn in legal scholarship in one of the most-cited US law review articles ever written. And more than 100 years after the publication of his ‘The Path of the Law,’ Oliver Wendell Holmes was right after all that ‘[f]or the rational study of the law the black-letter man may be the man of the present, but the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics. It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV.’ This time, empirical scholarship in international law might really be the next big thing. More and more scholars are interested in the ‘social antecedents and consequences of judicial decisions’ along with the effects of law and legal institutions on individuals and societies more generally. To inquire into those, legal scholars necessarily have to adopt empirical methods and get involved with sociology, psychology, economics and political theory.

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