Book Review: The Status of Law in World Society: Mediations on the Role and Rule of Law byFriedrich Kratochwil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014)
The intersection between international law and international relations has become a heavily ventured terrain. Scholars from both fields, it appears, are finally engaging in a systematic discourse about the intractable relationship between law, politics, and ethics at the international level. This is not only reflected in the significant increase in journal articles and books dealing with issues such as global constitutionalism, human rights, and military intervention from a wide range of perspectives; but also, and even more importantly, in the enriched quality of interdisciplinary scholarship. Instead of simply borrowing concepts and arguments without paying much attention to the wider tradition of thought from which they are extracted, a genuine dialogue between international lawyers, normative theorists, and social scientists seems to be under way.
Friedrich Kratochwil has long been a leading figure in the interdisciplinary debate. During a career spanning over three decades, he has profoundly shaped the way we think about the social construction of normative orders and the logic of legal arguments in political and ethical discourse. Perhaps most noteworthy is his seminal text on the use of norms in legal and moral decision making, which has sowed the seeds for much of the constructivist inspired legal scholarship we see today. (1)
Kratochwil's recent book, The Status of Law in World Society, is the product of his lifetime endeavour to theorise the 'social' nature and function of law in global life. Rather than developing an explicit argument, it offers a 'philosophical meditation'; an inquisitive, self-reflective, and insightful intellectual journey in which the author meticulously works through the material. While those preferring a more straightforward style of presentation might find this kind of inquiry confusing, it certainly makes for a fascinating read. He skilfully weaves together legal theory, philosophy, and sociology using metaphors and counterfactual reasoning in order to make his case. That is, urging us to think about law and norms in terms of contingent, dynamic, and contested social practices, rather than manifestations of universalistic and abstract concepts. This may not sound entirely novel to readers familiar with Kratochwil's work, and some of his claims about...