Contesting Culture in the Rhetoric of Contemporary International Law

Posted: 27 Jul 2011 Last revised: 5 Oct 2012

See all articles by John D. Haskell

John D. Haskell

University of Manchester School of Law


This paper was originally presented at Towards Radical Approaches to International Law Conference at the London School of Economics in 2011, and a revised version at the European Society of International Law’s 2012 International Legal Theory Working Group Panel in 2012. It is currently being revised for publication consideration in Fall 2013. The argument of the paper centers on the role that ‘culture’ plays as a heuristic devise and goal within the literature and practice of contemporary international law. My hypothesis is that while many of the methodological approaches and political commitments associated with ‘culture’ are important contributions to the discipline, its overall effect on the conceptual vocabulary and possibilities of law and politics are detrimental to either an accurate understanding of the structural dynamics or distributional stakes at play within contemporary global regulation. The paper maps out and critically evaluates the various themes commonly employed within international legal argument related to ‘culture’ in the hopes of tracing out some tentative methodological directions – what I will call ‘structural realism’ - towards a new framework of the legal subject.

Suggested Citation

Haskell, John D., Contesting Culture in the Rhetoric of Contemporary International Law. SOAS School of Law Research Paper No. 10/2011 , Available at SSRN:

John D. Haskell (Contact Author)

University of Manchester School of Law ( email )

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