Not Hamdan! Reading for July 4th Weekend: New IL/IR Journal

Not Hamdan! Reading for July 4th Weekend: New IL/IR Journal

Okay, maybe not that new, and maybe not exactly what you had in mind for the beach. But in case you missed it when it was published (I had), there’s a promising-looking law review that’s recently come on stream, the Journal of International Law and International Relations, out of the University of Toronto. Full-text pdf of the first edition can be found here. It includes a great line-up of IR/IL scholars, including Ken Abbott, Steve Charnovitz, Jan Klabbers, and Jeff Dunoff.

Abbott’s lead-off piece is especially good as an IR primer and critique. It nicely captures the flavor of IR scholarship as a “battle of paradigms,” in which theories are “mutually exclusive and competitive.” As Abbott notes, this may not serve the discipline going forward, especially as international decisionmaking becomes more obviously complex. Abbott suggests adapting the institutionalist strain of IR theory (which explains international regimes as the product of rational state interests in cooperation) to account for non-state actors, international organizations, and transgovernmental networks, by drawing from constructivist and liberal approaches.

I’ve been skeptical of the ultimate value of IR for IL. (You can find some elaboration here and here.) IR was a logical first foothold for IL in the social sciences after a generation of disciplinary isolation (both within the law and elsewhere). But IR theory was a product of the 20th century’s hyper-state centrism, and I’m not sure how well it works now that the state system is under stress at least enough to make it an important element of forward-looking academic work. The battle of the paradigms has also stifled the sort of theoretical innovation that this changing context demands; IR is self-referential (sometimes scholastically so) in a way that deters even medium leaps forward.

Abbott’s piece is important insofar it recognizes these shortcomings, coming from someone who was at the forefront of the collaboration (but still an IL person – I doubt this sort of work could have come from the IR side of the aisle), at the same time that it looks to fix them. He doesn’t pretend to offer a seamless answer, and I wonder if IR’s entrenched culture of competitive paradigms can be dislodged, but it’s an interesting start.

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