Christian Wolff: System As an Episode?

Stefan Kadelbach, Thomas Kleinlein and David Roth-Isigkeit (eds), System and Order in International Law, OUP: 2017, pp. 216–239

29 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2017 Last revised: 14 Oct 2020

Date Written: February 7, 2017

Abstract

Christian Wolff considered his systematic method to be his original contribution to the study of international law. Yet, despite the fact that Wolff was a very renowned scholar at his time, this systematic method apparently remained an episode in international legal thought. The aim of this contribution is to explain the reasons for this peculiar development. The chapter sets out by presenting a short overview of the life and work of Wolff as a universal systematizer and champion of academic freedom before. It then turns to the significance of methodological considerations in the development of international legal thought from Grotius via Wolff to Vattel. The next section analyses in detail Wolff’s systematic method and its implications for his writings on jus gentium. The final section presents three transitions in international legal thought that are already discernible, but not explicit, in Wolff’s writings: a process of an autonomisation of international law, a shift from natural law to positivism and a shifting focus from law to political economy. In a paradoxical manner, Wolff’s specific approach to the study of international law and his scientific method contributed to these transitions in international legal thought and, at the same time, hid them behind ambiguity. Arguably, this ambiguity contributes to explaining Wolff’s later reception.

Keywords: Christian Wolff, Hugo Grotius, Emer de Vattel, civitas maxima, systematic method, international legal thought

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Kleinlein, Thomas, Christian Wolff: System As an Episode? (February 7, 2017). Stefan Kadelbach, Thomas Kleinlein and David Roth-Isigkeit (eds), System and Order in International Law, OUP: 2017, pp. 216–239 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2923971

Thomas Kleinlein (Contact Author)

University of Kiel ( email )

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
87
Abstract Views
814
Rank
534,605
PlumX Metrics