Cohen Doctoral Seminar in International Law
The Politics of International Law - June 15-16, 2012
Held at McGill's Faculty of Law, this second seminar was the opportunity for 12 doctoral and postdoctoral scholars to explore the relationships between law and politics at the international level, with a focus on the competing themes of realism and idealism.
This web page serves to share the papers that were presented by the participants. For the schedule of panels and other activities, please consult the seminar's complete program [.pdf].
The biennial Dean Maxwell and Isle Cohen Doctoral Seminar Series in International Law offers a dozen or so doctoral and post-doctoral researchers with a keen interest in international law the opportunity to present and discuss their research ideas with fellow researchers and professors from the Faculty.
THE 2012 THEME
The idealists of the 19th and 20th centuries had great ambitions for international law, considering it to be the primary basis for civilization and progress. The influence of realpolitik, they believed, would decline as States increasingly grasped the benefits of international cooperation and the costs of pursuing narrow self-interest.
That idealism seems to have been replaced by cynicism and skepticism on the part of opponents and even of proponents of international law. Many now question the power of norms to constrain State behaviour while others even maintain that the rhetoric of legitimacy has been abused for illegitimate purposes.
That is not to say that international law has declined; to the contrary, international courts and tribunals have proliferated, and the ICJ's docket is busier than ever.
But the decisions of such tribunals often seem to be influenced by political considerations, and international judges and arbitrators are often criticized (in much the same way domestic judges are) as unelected actors who are unaccountable to any democratic process, an argument that gives support to those who would rather ignore than abide by those decisions.
Is a return to idealism called for in order to alleviate the pressure on international legal institutions brought to bear by powerful, self-interested actors, and the prevailing cynicism about the relevance of law? Or are idealists themselves shaped by self-interest and political considerations?
In fact, one might well ask whether idealism contributes to the politicization of international law as ideologically-driven actors seek to further their own agendas under the cover of seemingly unimpeachable principles.
“Effectiveness of Investment Arbitration from a Power Dynamic Perspective” Download [.pdf]
“On the Shared Subjectivity of Value in International Legal Theory” Download [.pdf]
“Why (Not) Arrest? Explaining State (Non)Compliance with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda” Download [.pdf]
“Deconstructing Intellectual Property Right Laws link with the Politics of International Relations in Jamaica: the Developing Country Narrative.” Download [.pdf]
“Idealism & Realism: The Perverse Effects of Ideology on International Criminal Justice” Download [.pdf]
“Dropped in Tripoli; Exploded in New York: Assessing the Collateral Consequences of NATO’s (Mis)leading Intervention in Libya” Download [.pdf]
“Between Law and Politics: The Challenge of Unilateral Declarations” Download [.pdf]
“Clashing Conceptions and Slippery Sovereignty: China and the Politics of International Law” Download [.pdf]
“From Diplomatic to Alien Protection: The American Origins of State Responsibility (1870-1930)” Download [.pdf]
“International courts: where the political also happens. The example of custom determination in the ICJ’s advisory opinion on Kosovo and recent judgment on state jurisdictional immunities” Download [.pdf]
“Military Uses of Outer Space: Ideal Law for a Politically Real Issue?” Download [.pdf]
“A Fairy Tale Faith in Secularism: Defining the International Rule of Law in the Political Spectrum” Download [.pdf]