Skip to main content

Berman essay reprinted in 'Legal Pluralism' collection

April 16, 2009

An essay by Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Dean Paul Schiff Berman, "A Pluralist Approach to International Law," originally published in the Yale Journal of International Law, was recently reprinted in an edited collection titled Legal Pluralism: Concepts and Critiques, published in India by Amicus Books.

The essay discusses the work of Robert Cover, a Yale Law School professor, and its relationship to the New Haven School of International Law, which offered a significant, process-based, rejoinder to the realism and positivism that had dominated international relations theory in the United States since the close of World War II. Whereas international relations realists viewed international law as merely a product of state power relations, and positivists dismissed international law entirely because it lacked both sovereign commands and a rule of recognition, scholars of the New Haven School studied law as a social process of authoritative decision-making. Such a study necessarily expanded the state-focused perspective of both the realists and positivists by drawing attention to ongoing interactions among variously situated bureaucratic and institutional actors.

The essay argues that Cover's emphasis on norm-generating communities - rather than nation-states - along with his celebration of jurisdictional redundancy provide a useful analytical framework for understanding the plural normative centers that are the focus of much current international law scholarship. Moreover, a pluralist perspective on international law provides a powerful critique to the latest incarnation of realism, now newly dressed up in the trappings of rational choice theory.

Berman's scholarship focuses on the intersection of international law, conflict of laws, cyberspace law, and the cultural analysis of law.

Judy Nichols,
(480) 727-7895
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law