ESIL Reflection by Mikael Rask Madsen – University of Copenhagen

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18 December 2015

ESIL Reflection by Mikael Rask Madsen

In the current ESIL reflection, Mikael Rask Madsen outlines a new research agenda for the study of international courts that takes seriously that courts are societal institutions and not merely instruments of law and politics.

Abstract: Recent years have seen a growth in interdisciplinary studies of international law (IL). Some even argue that IL and International Relations (IR) “cohabit the same conceptual space,” and that “they are potentially a kind of joint discipline”. There are many good reasons to engage political science and, particularly, IR in the study of international law and courts, the obvious one being that IL has international political implications and that international courts (ICs) exercise forms of public authority. Although the interface of international law and politics undoubtedly will continue to spark academic debate, in this Reflection I will argue that this particular emphasis of the interface of law and politics leaves out the sociological dimension necessary for explaining the law and legal institutions of the “society of nations”. There is, in other words, a missing sociology of the “society of nations” and its legal institutions – that is, a study of the social structures of international society and how these help explain the relative power of international law, courts and lawyers in their interaction with other institutions and actors. In what follows, I will introduce a set of studies that have managed to bring both classical and contemporary sociology into current debates about IL and particularly ICs.

ESIL Reflections are published by the European Society of International Law.

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