Softness in International Law: A Self-Serving Quest for New Legal Materials

Posted: 17 Jan 2009

See all articles by Jean d'Aspremont

Jean d'Aspremont

Sciences Po Law School; University of Manchester - School of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2008


The concept of soft law which rests on the idea that the binary nature of law is ill suited to accommodate the growing complexity of contemporary international relations has been endorsed by a large number of scholars. It has however remained under the attack of those who are commonly portrayed as positivists. Although it does not seek to rehabilitate positivism as a whole, this article will try to offer a refreshed and modernized account of the positivist objection to soft law. It will accordingly distinguish several types of softness. Such a dichotomy will help to unravel the underlying agenda of some of the staunchest supporters of the concept of soft law. The article will ultimately expound on the proneness of international legal scholars to stretch the limit of their object of study by constantly seizing materials outside the realm of international law in order to alleviate the strain inherent in the contemporary proliferation of international legal thinking.

Suggested Citation

d'Aspremont, Jean, Softness in International Law: A Self-Serving Quest for New Legal Materials (November 2008). European Journal of International Law, Vol. 19, Issue 5, pp. 1075-1093, 2008, Available at SSRN: or

Jean D'Aspremont (Contact Author)

Sciences Po Law School ( email )

13 rue de l'université
Paris, 75007


University of Manchester - School of Law ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester M13 9PL, M139PL
United Kingdom


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