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14 - The Practice of Interpretation in International Law: Strategies of Critique

from Part V - Interdisciplinary Approaches to International Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 July 2022

Jeffrey L. Dunoff
Affiliation:
Temple University, Philadelphia
Mark A. Pollack
Affiliation:
Temple University, Philadelphia
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Summary

The practice of interpretation brings the law to life. It takes part in shaping and making the law, and does not just give effect to the law that is out there. To the extent that international law affects peoples’ everyday life, so does the practice of interpretation. Even more so than other fields of law, international law is in large parts the product of interpretative practice. What then is this practice of interpretation?

Interpretation is best understood as an argument about what the law means. While such an understanding of interpretation enjoys considerable common ground, it immediately begs the question of how to then understand that practice of arguing. I will distinguish four different approaches to that question in light of their strategy of critique – whether that critique is formalist, instrumentalist, realist, or immanent. In other words, what are the arguments and broader strategies with which to criticize a specific interpretation or a broader interpretative practice? This question will provide the pathway for approaching the practice of interpretation.

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International Legal Theory
Foundations and Frontiers
, pp. 305 - 324
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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