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Sustainable Development as a Legal Principle: A Rhetorical Analysis

Jaye Ellis

McGill University - Faculty of Law

December 22, 2008

This paper explores the significance of sustainable development for international environmental law. Sustainable development is treated as a concept rather than a legal principle, whose capacity to influence the system of international environmental law and legal conclusions reached within this legal system can usefully be analysed from the standpoint of rhetorical theory. Sustainable development is treated as akin to a rhetorical commonplace. It has not yet received the status of received wisdom that commonplaces possess, and indeed one of its central functions is to disrupt and challenge received wisdom. Nevertheless, sustainable development can serve as a commonplace, in that it helps structure legal arguments and, more importantly, can be used to render them more persuasive by helping a speaker create an emotional connection with an audience, thus enhancing the appeal of the reasoned arguments presented in support of a given legal position.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 28

Keywords: public international law, international environmental law, sustainable development, rhetoric

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Date posted: December 22, 2008 ; Last revised: May 17, 2016

Suggested Citation

Ellis, Jaye, Sustainable Development as a Legal Principle: A Rhetorical Analysis (December 22, 2008). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1319360 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1319360

Contact Information

Jaye Ellis (Contact Author)
McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )
3644 Peel Street
Montreal H3A 1W9, Quebec
514 398 6625 (Phone)
514 398 3233 (Fax)
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