Constructivism and International Law

In Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Mark A. Pollack, eds., Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The State of the Art (Cambridge University Press, December 2012).

39 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2012 Last revised: 3 Feb 2013

See all articles by Jutta Brunnée

Jutta Brunnée

University of Toronto, Faculty of Law

Stephen J. Toope

University of Cambridge

Date Written: June 21, 2012

Abstract

Over the last decade or so a new dialogue has emerged between international relations (IR) theorists interested in the social creation of identity and who focus attention on the role of norms in international politics, and international law (IL) scholars for whom normative evolution is a stock-in-trade. These norm-interested IR thinkers have been labeled “constructivists.” Although we argue that constructivists have yet to fully exploit the mutual learning that is possible in the interaction of constructivist IR thinking and international legal theorizing, there is a promising openness to dialogue. Constructivism helps explain how IL can exist and influence behavior, and IL can help inform a richer understanding of the particular roles of different categories of norms in international society. Constructivist work has so far focused upon the building of social norms through interaction, and on the pathways through which they come to influence actors. Overall, too little effort has been expended upon tracing out the distinctions between social and legal norms, but there is nothing in constructivism that denigrates the distinction or resists such analysis, as some recent work has shown. In this chapter we canvass the reasons underlying the emergence of constructivist thought in IR, and trace out its major preoccupations (Part II). We then highlight key themes in constructivist engagement with IL (Part III), before detailing how international lawyers have deployed constructivist insights (Part IV). Next, we canvass central themes in the interdisciplinary dialogue between constructivism and international law (Part V). Finally, we evaluate the most salient insights and contributions of the literature to date, and identify gaps and productive directions for future work (Part VI).

Suggested Citation

Brunnée, Jutta and Toope, Stephen J., Constructivism and International Law (June 21, 2012). In Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Mark A. Pollack, eds., Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The State of the Art (Cambridge University Press, December 2012).. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2088132

Jutta Brunnée (Contact Author)

University of Toronto, Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
416-946-7353 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)

Stephen J. Toope

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

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