The Conception of International Law as a Legal System
German Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 50, pp. 393-405, 2008
13 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2008 Last revised: 29 Apr 2008
Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the German approach to public law in general and to public international law in particular is the systemic vision: the effort to envision the various legal norms as arranged within a hierarchy, composing together a coherent, logical order. This essay highlights what I believe to be the contribution of this systemic vision to international law and politics. This approach has contributed significantly to the emergent conception of international law as a legal system. The system of norms constitutes a map that guides lawyers in their search for applicable norms, and empowers judges to fill lacunas, interpret treaties, manage the interface between different treaties, and in general develop and further solidify the system. Probably the most significant political outcome of the vision of international law as a legal system is the empowerment of courts to develop international law beyond the intention of governments, and the equalizing effect of a coherent and consistent interpretation and application of the law. The essay also mentions a few contemporary challenges to this vision, in particular the fragmentation of the law and the turn to informal arrangements.
Keywords: international law, comparative law
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation