IILJ Emerging Scholars Paper 6 (2007)

A Call to Freedom: Toward a Philosophy of International Law in an Era of Fragmentation

Alexandra Khrebtukova

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In an era of the expansion and diversification of international law into multiple specialized branches, many have expressed anxiety over its continued coherence as a unified legal system. In what follows I take the perspective that an under­explored challenge posed by the so­ called fragmentation of international law is not so much that the decision­making bodies of specialized international legal regimes will fail to take account of one another, and thereby arrive at potentially inconsistent legal determinations; rather, it is that, in taking account of one another, they will overstep the bounds of their legitimacy in determining the hierarchical relationship between competing normative systems from the perspective of a structural bias in favor of the normative hierarchies particular to their regimes. In arguing for the recognition of inter­regime conflict as an essentially political conflict between incommensurable systems for prioritizing global values, I argue for a reconception of the state as the empty signifier of public space, to suggest one potentially fruitful avenue for addressing these democratic legitimacy concerns. Further, I argue that such a reconception, and its attendant implications for the concept of state sovereignty, may gradually lead to a more inclusive understanding of an international rule of law. I conclude by linking these themes to their suggested counterparts in the transmission of an appropriate professional sensibility in the course of legal education.