Koskenniemi's Images of the International Lawyer

(2016) 29 Leiden Journal of International Law 699-726

Helsinki Legal Studies Research Paper No. 41

29 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2016 Last revised: 2 Aug 2016

See all articles by Sahib Singh

Sahib Singh

University of Helsinki; University of Cambridge

Date Written: March 15, 2016


In this paper I excavate and critique the images of the international lawyer that emerge from the main texts of Martti Koskenniemi. After uncovering their attitudes and characteristics, I question whether these images are capable of realising the politics of critical thought.

The first is the critical subject that emerges from "From Apology to Utopia", who also happens to be a projection of the critic. She is governed by both elitism and unhappiness, for whom freedom is always both a constant and overarching possibility, yet always embodied in a fleeting moment. I question whether this critic(al subject) may not unwittingly embed the very aspects of liberal legal and political thought that she seeks to challenge. (Part II)

The second image of the international lawyer is the professional lawyer who is left on the shores of pragmatism. She takes a last - and perhaps futile - refuge in an ethics that could buttress an identity which allows for international law's moral regeneration. She emerges from my reading of "The Gentle Civilizer", the 2005 Epilogue to the republished "From Apology to Utopia" and those texts relating to Koskenniemi's turn to Kant. (Part III)

My hope, in exploring these images of the international lawyer and their politics, is to shake the faith often invested in the potential of the subject within critical international legal thought. The small contribution of this paper is to suggest that we need to be willing to shake our own foundations no matter how deep they run. Even if, and perhaps especially because, it is our identity at stake.

Keywords: Identity, Subject, The Critic, International Lawyer, Martti Koskenniemi, Ethics

JEL Classification: K33, K10

Suggested Citation

Singh, Sahib, Koskenniemi's Images of the International Lawyer (March 15, 2016). (2016) 29 Leiden Journal of International Law 699-726; Helsinki Legal Studies Research Paper No. 41. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2742077

Sahib Singh (Contact Author)

University of Helsinki ( email )

Yliopistonkatu 3
Helsinki, 00014

University of Cambridge ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

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