International Law and Interdisciplinarity

37 Pages Posted: 1 May 2020

See all articles by Sergio Dellavalle

Sergio Dellavalle

University of Turin - Faculty of Law; Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law; Goethe University Frankfurt - Cluster of Excellence Normative Orders

Date Written: May 1, 2020


The article presents three main arguments in favour of an interdisciplinary opening of international law. The first emerges from the transition from traditional international law to transnational law, as a result of which specialized legal subsystems increasingly overcome the boundaries of nation states and, by making themselves independent of the pyramidal structure of the constitutional order, tend to overlap one another. Consequently, the transnational sphere is characterized by a significant intersection of competences, so that contemporary international law cannot be understood properly without a substantial expertise in fields that transcend its usual understanding. The second argument in favour of interdisciplinarity is related to the content of law in general and of international law in particular. Because a set of norms fulfils the task of stabilizing the normative expectations that are generated within a specific social subsystem, it inevitably incorporates the kind of rationality that characterizes the functioning of that same social subsystem. Thus, to understand how a legal subsystem works, it is necessary to take into account the fundamental constituents of that kind of rationality which makes up the rules of interaction within the social subsystem related to that particular set of norms. The third argument for interdisciplinarity derives, finally, from the overall rationale of law. In fact, beyond the functional rationality that the legal norms acquire insofar as they fulfil the task of stabilizing the normative expectations generated within specialized social subsystems, the law also enshrines a more inclusive understanding of a metasystemic rationality, namely a comprehensive idea of social order. Therefore, law is to be interpreted as the system of formal propositions that lay down the rules and principles that govern human interaction according to a specific view of how the “well-ordered society” should be defined. While law’s relation to the specialized subsystems is the expression of its functional rationale, its link to the idea of how the “well-ordered society” is understood manifests its more encompassing social rationality and, by reflecting what we can define as the paradigms of order, incorporates the knowledge developed within extra-legal discourses.

Keywords: international Law, interdisciplinarity, transnational law, paradigms of order, rationality of legal subsystems, dialogue between courts

Suggested Citation

Dellavalle, Sergio, International Law and Interdisciplinarity (May 1, 2020). Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & International Law (MPIL) Research Paper No. 2020-14, Available at SSRN: or

Sergio Dellavalle (Contact Author)

University of Turin - Faculty of Law ( email )


Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120

Goethe University Frankfurt - Cluster of Excellence Normative Orders


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