A Marxist and TWAIL Reading of the Oxford Handbook of the Sources of International Law

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Abstract

1. Peoples and states the world over have entertained formal relations with one another since time immemorial. The norms, traditions and ententes that have over the ages developed from these relationships collectively constitute the core framework, that is: sources, of international law as we know it today. While classical publicists were largely aloof on the question of sources, an upsurge of interest and scholarly debates on the subject, which puzzlingly emerged amongst contemporary international lawyers at the close of the First World War in 1919, endures. The latest of this interest is expressed in a new book—The Oxford Handbook of the Sources of International Law edited by Jean d’Aspremont, Samantha Besson (hereinafter, Handbook).1

2. The volume is a monumental work that includes 52 articles from 56 contributors, covering a range of perspectives related to the sources of the discipline. The scope of the book is confined to the criticalness of sources to the discipline of international law, especially with regard to their practical functions and limitations. The book is the first of its kind not just because of its firm emphasis on sources of international law, but more so for assembling a wide range of juristic interpretations on the subject (natural law jurists, positivists, formalists, realists, and contemporary thinkers) into one compact volume.

3. The Handbook is somewhat unconventional for its style and emphasis. In contrast to similar works that typically seek to serve as a reference book, the volume deliberately avoids textbook topics (p. 17). While the nonconformity to tradition gives the contributory authors more leeway for discretion, it nevertheless also paves the way for a wide range of other lapses. The editors explain the exclusion of textbook topics as a tactical technique whereupon authors could address some or all [of these] key topics in their respective chapters albeit under a specific lens each time (p. 17). This explanation begs the question: shouldn’t a handbook be a comprehensive introductory reference textbook on a given subject for both scholars and novices? This review ponders why the editors could not fulfil both duties of including textbook topics, while at the same time authorising autonomous critiques of conventional givens.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChinese Journal of International Law
Volume19
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)183-192
Number of pages10
ISSN1540-1650
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2020
MoE publication typeB1 Journal article

Fields of Science

  • 513 Law

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