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Chapter 7: Transnational Legal Process Theories

The Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication, Forthcoming

University of Iowa College of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-18

21 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2012  

Maya Steinitz

University of Iowa - College of Law

Date Written: October 1, 2012


This Chapter of The Oxford Handbook of International Adjudication is devoted to transnational legal process theories. The main thrust of the Chapter is that the field of transnational legal process theories has proceeded without the benefit of conceptual clarity regarding the key underlying concept: the concept of a/the ‘legal process’ and that a myriad of partly-overlapping concepts — such as international adjudication, supranational adjudication, and transnational litigation — are used interchangeably, willy-nilly. This, in turn, may be explained by three observations. First, that the relevant discourse attempts, by design of the field’s forefathers, to capture both transnational public adjudication and private transnational commercial adjudication (international arbitration) within a single framework. Second, is the tendency to group together international adjudication — arbitration and litigation in international courts and tribunals — and cross-border litigation — litigation with a foreign component in national courts. Third, is a theory deficit — little has changed since Harold Koh observed a “void in legal scholarship” in the mid-1990s, despite the explosion of international adjudication at that time.

The Chapter opens with definitions of ‘transnational legal process(es)’ and with a brief history of the concept. The main section presents some of the leading theories, grouped based upon the underlying perspective of the theorists: The lawyers and legal theorists; the political science and international relations theorists; and the sociologists and socio-legal theorists. In addition to describing these dominant approaches, the Chapter highlights competing methodologies and key themes, such as the internationalization of the rule of law and its discontents and the intended and unintended consequences of the transplantation of institutional models. The Chapter concludes with some general observations and with a number of suggestions for further research.

Keywords: transnational legal process theories, international adjudication, supranational adjudication, transnational litigation, international law, international arbitration, cross-border arbitration, international courts, international tribunals

JEL Classification: K10, K33, K41

Suggested Citation

Steinitz, Maya, Chapter 7: Transnational Legal Process Theories (October 1, 2012). The Oxford Handbook on International Adjudication, Forthcoming; University of Iowa College of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-18 . Available at SSRN:

Maya Steinitz (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

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