Chapter

Universal International Law's Grammar

Dirk Pulkowski

in From Bilateralism to Community Interest

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199588817
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725272 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199588817.003.0011
Universal International Law's Grammar

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As the universal geographical reach of the law of nations has become a reality, the universality of international law has come under attack in another respect. Theorists of international relations observe that the international order has become more and more ‘fragmented’ into a variety of issue-specific normative arrangements. In fact, some argue that ‘international law’ (in the singular) is gradually being replaced by a variety of issue-specific ‘international laws’ — including the legal rules of such regimes as trade law, environmental law, the law of human rights, and the law of cultural heritage. This radically particularistic vision of the international order is uncompelling. This chapter argues that while the substantive legal prescriptions under various regimes differ widely, all these regimes also have important commonalities. All subsystems of international law use a common discourse of justification, which permits and often requires decision-makers in different regimes to situate their decisions in relation to other regimes. The shared ground rules for rational discourse that universally apply across the international order notably include concepts of ‘general international law’ and accepted rules of interpretation. Hence, what holds the universe of international law together is not so much a hierarchy of norms or a common rule of recognition. Rather international regimes remain communicatively compatible with one another by virtue of a common discourse.

Keywords: international law; law of nations; international relations; international order; trade law; environmental law; human rights

Chapter.  8414 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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