International law and sociolegal scholarship

Toward a spatial global legal pluralism

Sally Merry

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Abstract

    At a recent conference on international law at UConn law school, I was intrigued by a talk on the bottom-up production of international law. Janet Koven Levit, whose article is published in the Yale Journal of International Law, argued that she was describing a process quite different from that normally told by international law scholars. The common approach to understanding international law is to tell a top-down story of states' treaty-based commitments or an intergovernmental organization formed by treaty. Insofar as there is a discussion of process, it focuses on diplomats in luxurious sites fine-tuning the language of a treaty. Yet, there are also forms of international lawmaking happening as practitioners figure out how to handle problems on a day-to-day basis. As they do so, they create and interpret rules, producing their own informal rules and practices. These ultimately become as much law as those based on top-down treaties. Levit says that there are many situations in which practice-based ways of doing things gradually become law. In the terminology of international law, “soft law” becomes “hard law.” Soft law refers to a wide range of international instruments, communications, informal agreements, memoranda of understanding, codes of conduct, or “gentlemen's agreements,” whereas hard law comprises international rules and norms that are at least technically binding. Levit looks at three little-known institutions in the world of international trade finance, one of which is the International Union of Credit and Investment Insurers (Berne Union), a nongovernmental organization that regulates export credit insurance policies for its members, both public and private export credit insurers. Some of the rules developed by this organization have been adopted by formal international lawmaking institutions, transforming them into hard law. Yet, she notes that these rules have never been written about because the Berne Union rules have been accessible only to members. Indeed, she had a great deal of difficulty getting access to the organization, which resisted her inquiries.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationNegotiating State and Non-State Law: The Challenge of Global and Local Legal Pluralism
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Pages59-80
    Number of pages22
    ISBN (Electronic)9781316018132
    ISBN (Print)9781107083769
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

    Fingerprint

    pluralism
    international law
    treaty
    Law
    credit
    organization
    informal communication
    memorandum
    school law
    diplomat
    world trade
    technical language
    insurance
    non-governmental organization
    finance
    commitment
    language

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences(all)

    Cite this

    Merry, S. (2015). International law and sociolegal scholarship: Toward a spatial global legal pluralism. In Negotiating State and Non-State Law: The Challenge of Global and Local Legal Pluralism (pp. 59-80). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316018132.004

    International law and sociolegal scholarship : Toward a spatial global legal pluralism. / Merry, Sally.

    Negotiating State and Non-State Law: The Challenge of Global and Local Legal Pluralism. Cambridge University Press, 2015. p. 59-80.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Merry, S 2015, International law and sociolegal scholarship: Toward a spatial global legal pluralism. in Negotiating State and Non-State Law: The Challenge of Global and Local Legal Pluralism. Cambridge University Press, pp. 59-80. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316018132.004
    Merry S. International law and sociolegal scholarship: Toward a spatial global legal pluralism. In Negotiating State and Non-State Law: The Challenge of Global and Local Legal Pluralism. Cambridge University Press. 2015. p. 59-80 https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316018132.004
    Merry, Sally. / International law and sociolegal scholarship : Toward a spatial global legal pluralism. Negotiating State and Non-State Law: The Challenge of Global and Local Legal Pluralism. Cambridge University Press, 2015. pp. 59-80
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