International law and other disciplines, sciences and arts

Forum 7: International Law and International Relations: Stability and Change

The notions of stability and change encapsulate important dimensions of what actors value in law, and expect from law. Law is commonly associated with order, predictability, certainty and, hence, stability. But since law operates within society, it must change, even promote change, as social values evolve or new social, economic, technological or environmental challenges and opportunities arise.

The theme of stability and change marks out productive terrain for exchange between international law and international relations (IR) scholars because it invites engagement with many of the persistent doubts and assumptions about international law, in particular as it relates to international politics. Many observers, especially international lawyers, assume (or hope) that international law can be stabilized through emphasis on formal sources, codification in treaties, constructs like jus cogens, or projects like constitutionalization. And yet, since it rarely operates as hierarchical imposition of authority, many observers, including both lawyers and IR scholars, also perceive international law as unstable, fragile or fluid. The underlying assumption often is that it is contingent on dominant values, interests, and power; international law is stable so long as those forces are stable, and it will change as they do.

This forum will primarily focus on questions concerning stability and change in international law itself, bearing in mind their implications for inquiries into law’s role in promoting stability or change in international society. For example, does international law have inherent stability and, if so, what accounts for that stability? Are legal norms more or less open to change than other norms in international society? What are the salient differences between customary and treaty law in this context? What are the devices through which stability is provided or change promoted in international law?

The forum will address these questions from different methodological and theoretical standpoints, including constructivist and rational-choice approaches in IR. The goal is to not only to illuminate the theme of “stability and change” but also to illustrate differences and complements, as well as strengths and weaknesses of the respective approaches.

esil2014 |