The power of legality: Practices of international law and their politics

Nikolas Rajkovic, Tanja Aalberts, Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen

    Research output: Book/ReportBook editingScientificpeer-review


    • 12 Chapter edited volume, with foreword by Martti Koskenniemi. Produced over 3 years, and involving 3 international workshops (Krakow, Florence and Weimar). Volume was accepted for publication with unanimous endorsement of all 4 CUP reviewers.

    From an airstrip in Saudi Arabia, the CIA launches drones to “legally” kill Al-Qaida leaders in Yemen. In the Arctic, Russia plants a flag on the seabed of the North Pole to extend Russia’s legal claim over resources. In Brussels, the European Commission unveils its Emissions Trading System, extending environmental jurisdiction globally over foreign airlines. At Frankfurt Airport, a father returning from family holiday is detained in the transit area because his name appears on a security list.
    “Legality”, the once alleged hobby for Buchrecht lawyers, today commands substantial and unprecedented currency in world affairs; making it harder to draw a clear border between law and politics in both empirical and academic terms. A rule of law imperative seems apparent in the way international political and economic action is frequently performed with reference to varied legal justifications. Yet, growing use and reference to international legality has not marked the end of strategic struggles in global affairs, but rather shifted the field and manner of play for a plurality of actors which now use, influence and contest the way law’s rule is and should be used to address world problems.
    Drawing on recent sociological theory, and a wide range of case studies, this volume argues that the notion of legality forms a crucial nexus between law and politics, which is informed by diverse types and readings of legal rules across various contexts of political struggle. The recent conceptual history of legality, as a term of increasingly varied professional and academic use, straddles this dynamic in exemplary fashion owing to how an expanding array of practitioners, institutions and scholars now stake claim to legality and often in competing ways. Accordingly, the contributions of the volume critically interrogate differentiated meanings and implications of legality across diverse scholarly, institutional and policy settings.
    More generally, the volume presents a new and more pluralist framework for cross-disciplinary research between International Law (IL) and International Relations (IR). It provides a critical appraisal of IL/IR interdisciplinarity to date, and makes a distinctive intervention on the last 20 years of contribution and debate regarding the (im)possibility of IL/IR research. Trying to move beyond the current impasse in this burgeoning field, the volume questions both a priori theorizing led by orthodox IL/IR scholarship as well as the retreat to “counterdisciplinarity” prescribed by a European IL academy. Drawing on practice theory, we present a new heuristic framework which, instead of modelling exchange between two presumably homogenized disciplines, focuses on two interrelated processes of social and interpretive contestation as the prime engines of knowledge construction on what legality means and implies across diverse contests of (legal) rule in the world today.
    This volume emanates from a two-year collaborative project sponsored by European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST Action IS1003 “International Law between Constitutionalisation and Fragmentation” and the Global Governance Programme of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (EUI—Florence). This project brought together senior and junior IL and IR scholars, from four continents, interested in developing alternative approaches to interdisciplinary research on international law and politics. It was developed over three workshops, Krakow (September 2012), Florence (May 2013) and Weimar (December 2013), allowing ample time for exchanges to build a common conceptual framework that all chapters relate to. The proposal is the result of a careful and extensive editing process, presenting the strongest chapters which have each undergone multiple rounds of revisions spanning 18-months. Chapters have further been selected to represent a diversity of case studies and include both IL and IR scholars across the three parts of the volume.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationCambridge
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages300
    Publication statusAccepted/In press - Apr 2016

    Publication series

    NameInternational Law
    PublisherCambridge University Press


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