International Legal Thought: Creation of a Tradition and the Potential of Disciplinary Self-Reflection
Global Community Yearbook of International Law and Jurisprudence 16 (2016), 811– 827 (preprint)
21 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2017 Last revised: 18 Jan 2018
Date Written: December 10, 2016
This contribution reflects on the role of tradition-building in international law, the implications of the recent ‘turn to history’ and the ‘presentisms’ discernible in the history of international legal thought. It first analyses how international legal thought created its own tradition in the 19th and 20th centuries. These projects of establishing a tradition implied a considerable amount of what historians would reject as ‘presentism’. Remarkably, critical scholars of our day and age who unsettled celebratory histories of international law and unveiled ‘colonial origins’ of international law, were also criticized for committing the ‘sin of anachronism’. The contribution therefore examines the basis of this critique and defends ‘presentism’ in international legal thought. However, the ‘paradox of instrumentalism’ remains that the ‘better’ historical analysis becomes, the more it loses its critical potential for current international law. At best, the turn to history activates a potential of disciplinary self-reflection.
Keywords: international legal thought, method, tradition-building, critical potential, Eurocentrism, in-strumentalism, Cambridge school of intellectual history, Alberico Gentili, Hugo Grotius, Baruch de Spinoza, Christian Wolff
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation