A Call for a New Legal Realism in International Law: The Need for Method
University of California at Irvine School of Law
January 6, 2009
Melvin C. Steen Appointment Lecture, Forthcoming
Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-02
In this inaugural lecture for Professor Shaffer's Melvin C. Steen Professorship, he provides a typology and assessment of four varieties of international law scholarship: formalist, normative, theoretical and empirical. He shows why there is great need for empirical "law-in-action studies" of international law in a new legal realist vein. The purpose of engaging in research in a new legal realist vein is to uncover issues to which otherwise we are ignorant, to which otherwise we are blind. The purpose is to engage in a method which permits one's incoming predispositions (inevitable no matter how neutral one tries to be) to be challenged and transformed. This is particularly important in a world characterized by constituencies with differing priorities, perspectives and opportunities to be heard. The distinctive features of a new legal realist approach are its commitment to empirical work, including the use of qualitative methods, its engagement with critical analysis, and its commitment to translating empirical findings for a legal policy audience. The lecture situates "new legal realism" in relation to the original legal realist movement in the United States and our current historic context. It provides numerous research examples of what a new legal realist approach offers.
Keywords: Legal realism, international lawAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: January 8, 2009
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