The Workings of Power in Transnational Law

27 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2021

See all articles by Philip Liste

Philip Liste

Fulda University of Applied Sciences

Date Written: December 29, 2020


Studying the transnational politics of law implies a transdisciplinary research framework. In various sub-fields of law and society studies, scholars stress the political moment of law and legal practice by attempting to understand law-as-something-else (e.g. law as culture, law as geographical knowledge, law as literature, etc.). The paper argues that this points to a yet unexploited possibility: by moving beyond an interdisciplinary understanding of the role of international law in international politics and beyond an understanding of international law as type of international norms to be studied in an analytical framework of IR norms research, the idea is to study (inter- or transnational) law as politics. To achieve a deeper understanding of the politics of law and the mechanisms of power at work within law, it is necessary to zoom in on the sites in which law is forcefully applied. Drawing on insights in Legal Realism and the Critical Legal Studies, I argue that to account for law-as-politics—and that is the workings of power in law and legal practice—it makes sense to address legal norms as critical resources of power. It is in this sense that the paper calls for an inclusion of IR theory into the law and society studies research program.

Keywords: Transnational law, power, norms, law-as-politics, practice, geography, transdisciplinarity, law and society, legal realism, critical legal studies, IR theory

Suggested Citation

Liste, Philip, The Workings of Power in Transnational Law (December 29, 2020). TLI Think! Paper 24/2020, Available at SSRN: or

Philip Liste (Contact Author)

Fulda University of Applied Sciences ( email )


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