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Which role for theory in international law? Report on the Workshop “Kelsen — Schmitt — Arendt: Constitutionalism in (International) Law”, Leipzig, June 11/12, 2009

  • Isabelle Ley

Abstract

Law is a discipline which allows us to combine a high level of doctrinal craftsmanship with an equally high level of theoretical reflection and (re-)construction of legal-political developments. For the academic scholar, law is practice, theory and doctrine, each requiring a distinct set of goals, a distinct set of methods and a distinct level of abstraction. For some time, the international legal discipline has been described as lacking in theoretical development. This consideration may have motivated the conveners of a Kelsen-Schmitt-Arendt conference series when they decided that it was time for a re-engagement with the theories of Kelsen, Schmitt, and Arendt. The first workshop on constitutionalism will be the object of this commentary.

Kelsen, Schmitt and Arendt have experienced unexpected and innovative reception in recent years: Schmitt has contributed to questions such as the problematic role of human rights, the institutionalization of politics as conflict, as well as new applications of the state of exception. Kelsen's international writings as well as his democratic theory have borne a fruitful re-reading, and Arendt, who has been widely read, and written about in the social sciences for several years, has finally reached the law faculties.

The primary interest of this comment lies in the question of how international legal scientific work can make use of legal and political theory. A whole range of politico-legal developments in the European and international arenas are currently creating new forms of institutions, obligations, and types of engagement between legal orders. The velocity and the diversity of these developments are challenging traditional frameworks, paradigms, and analytical tools of the discipline. This task of conceptualization asks for and lends itself to theorization. Which approaches to theory are available for legal scholars, and what kind of insights do they offer? The conference offered the chance to witness different examples of how theory can be accessed. What role is there for theory in international law and what is its potential?

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References

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1 See Habermas, J., Einige Schwierigkeiten beim Versuch, Theorie und Praxis zu vermitteln, in Habermas, J., Theorie und Praxis, 9 (1978); M. Koskenniemi, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations. The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960, 504 (2002): “Theories may make us see new things and articulate experiences more sharply, and they make us better practicioners.”

2 Warbrick, C., Introduction, in Theory and International Law: An Introduction, xi (Allott et al. eds., 1991). Pleading for the necessity of a stronger engagement with theory in international law: S. Dellavalle, Kurzes Plädoyer zugunsten der Notwendigkeit, sich mit theoretischen Fragen im Völkerrecht zu befassen, 2 Studentische Zeitschrift für Rechtswissenschaft 233 (2006). Exploring the German international legal academia's unwillingness to engage with theoretical issues and the blind spots for the political, prescriptive dimension of doctrinal handwerk that goes with it: J. Klabbers, A German School? Book Review: Ulla Hingst, Auswirkungen der Globalisierung auf das Recht der völkerrechtlichen Verträge, 16 LJIL 201 (2003).

3 Louise Arimatsu, Jason Beckett, Jochen von Bernstorff, Morag Goodwin, Florian Hofmann, Jörg Kammerhofer, Alexandra Kemmerer and Michael Wilkinson.

4 Three of the contributions have been published in a special issue of the Leiden Journal of International Law: J. Kammerhofer, Constitutionalism and the myth of practical reason. Kelsenian responses to methodological confusion; Augsberg, I., Carl Schmitt's Fear: Nomos – Norm – Network; Volk, C., From nomos to lex. Hannah Arendt on Law, Politics, and Order, 23:4 Leiden Journal of International Law (2010).

5 Laclau, E., Emancipation(s) (2007); The Challenge of Carl Schmitt (C. Mouffe, ed., 1999); W. Rasch, Sovereignty and its Discontents: On the primacy of conflict and the structure of the political (2004); see the review by J. Beckett, Conflicting Orders: How Peace is Waged, 20 LJIL 281 (2007). Martti Koskenniemi discussed Schmitt in the context of a call for inter-disciplinarity: M. Koskenniemi, Carl Schmitt, Hans Morgenthau and the Image of Law in International Relations, in The Role of Law in International Politics, 17 (M. Byers ed., 2000); see also the special issue: (2006) 19 LJIL; G. Agamben, State of Exception (2005).

6 J. von Bernstorff, Der Glaube an das universale Recht–Zur Völkerrechtstheorie Hans Kelsens und seiner Schüler (2001); J. von Bernstorff, Hans Kelsen's International Law Theory: Believing in Universal Law, (2010), forthcoming; J. Kammerhofer, Kelsen – Which Kelsen? A Reapplication of the Pure Theory to International Law, 22 LJIL 225 (2009); J. Kammerhofer, Uncertainty in International Law – A Kelsenian Perspective, (2010), forthcoming; La controverse sur le gardien de la Constitution et la justice constitutionelle: Kelsen contre Schmitt (O. Beaud ed., 2007). See the new edition of Kelsen's writings on democracy: Verteidigung der Demokratie: Abhandlungen zur Demokratietheorie – Hans Kelsen (M. Jestaedt & O. Lepsius eds., 2006); Hans Kelsen: Leben – Werk – Wirksamkeit (R. Walter, W. Ogris & T. Olechowski eds., 2009).

7 For example S. Benhabib, The reluctant modernism of Hannah Arendt (2000); H. Brunkhorst, Hannah Arendt (1999); M. Canovan, Hannah Arendt: a reinterpretation of her political thought (1992); M. Passerin d'Entrèves, The political philosophy of Hannah Arendt (1994); D. Villa, Politics, Philosophy, terror: essays on the thought of Hannah Arendt (1999); E. Young-Bruehl, Why Arendt Matters (2006).

8 Klabbers, J., Possible Islands of Predictability: The Legal Thought of Hannah Arendt, 20 LJIL 1 (2007); J. Waldron, Law and Disagreement, 76 (1999); C. Volk, Die Ordnung der Freiheit: Recht und Politik im Denken Hannah Arendts (2010); U. Schröder, Wiedergelesen Hannah Arendt: Macht und Gewalt, 1970, 65 JuristenZeitung 130 (2010).

9 For example: Hans Kelsen and Carl Schmitt. A Juxtaposition (D. Diner & M. Stolleis, eds., 1999).

10 For the program, see: http://www.dubnow.de/fileadmin/userupload/PDF/Programmworkshopksa.pdf (last accessed: 3 October 2010).

11 Kammerhofer, J., Constitutionalism and the Myth of Practical Reason: Kelsenian Responses to Methodological Problems, 23 Leiden Journal of International Law 723 (2010).

12 Fassbender, B., The United Nations Charter as the Constitution of the International Community, 129 (2009).

13 Kammerhofer, J., supra, note 4, at p. 729.

14 For a similar analysis of international constitutionalism from a critical standpoint, see: E. MacDonald, Constitutionalising the Globe? The Rhetorical Construction of Community in International Legal Scholarship (paper presented at the 23rd Annual Conference of the International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, Krakow, 1–7 August 2007).

15 Trachtman, J., Book Review. Conflict of Norms in Public International Law: How WTO Relates to Other Rules of International Law by Joost Pauwelyn, 98 AJIL 855 (2004).

16 J. von Bernstorff, Der Glaube an das universale Recht – Zur Völkerrechtstheorie Hans Kelsens und seiner Schüler (2001).

17 For an enthusiast but methodologically critical review on this point, see: J. Klabbers, von Bernstorff, Der Glaube an das universale Recht: Zur Völkerrechtstheorie Hans Kelsens und seiner Schüler: Book Review, 14 EJIL 613 (2003).

18 Augsberg, I., Carl Schmitt's Fear: Nomos – Norm –Network, 23 Leiden Journal of International Law 741 (2010),

19 Schmitt, Land und Meer (1981 [1942]).

20 On the methodological ramifications of this juxtaposition, see: M. Reder, Globale Konflikte und die Heterogenität des Rechts – Rechtsphilosophische Anmerkungen zur kantischen und hegelschen Tradition, Archiv für Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie, Beiheft, (2010), forthcoming.

21 Schmitt, C., Der Begriff des Politischen, 58 Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 1 (1927).

22 Augsberg, I., supra, note 19, at p. 745.

23 For an interpretation from the right, see e.g.: Quaritsch, H., Souveränität. Entstehung und Entwicklung des Begriffs in Frankreich und Deutschland vom 13. Jahrhundert bis 1806 (1986); and from the left: The Challenge of Carl Schmitt (C. Mouffe ed., 1999), W. Rasch, Sovereignty and its Discontents: on the primacy of conflict and the structure of the political (2004).

24 Mouffe, C., On the Political – Thinking in action, 20 (2005).

25 Waldron, J., Law and Disagreement, 108 (1999); S. Besson, The Morality of Conflict – Reasonable Disagreement and the Law, 8, 527 (2005); A. Niederberger, Demokratie unter Bedingungen der Weltgesellschaft?, 102 (2009).

26 Arendt, H., Civil Disobedience, in Crises of the Republic, 43 (H. Arendt, 1973).

27 Benhabib, S., The reluctant modernism of Hannah Arendt, x (2003): “It is my thesis that German Existenz philosophy, and particularly the thought of Martin Heidegger, inspired some of Arendt's best known categories, such as world, action, and plurality. But what enabled Arendt to transform Heidegger's teachings into an original political philosophy were her experiences as a German Jewish woman in the age of totalitarianism.”

28 For a discussion of this phenomenon from an international law perspective, see: M. Koskenniemi, International Law as Political Theology: How to Read Nomos der Erde?, 11 Constellations 492, 498 (2004).

29 Arendt, H., On Revolution, 167 (2006 [1963]).

30 The reference to the topicality of the subject is implicit but present in J. McCormick, CarlSchmitt's Critique of Liberalism: Against Politics as Technology, especially at 22 (1999).

31 Augsberg, I., supra, note 19, at p. 755.

32 Schmitt, C., Der Hüter der Verfassung (1931); H. Kelsen, Wer soll der Hüter der Verfassung sein? (1931).

33 Schmitt, C., Legality and legitimacy (2004 [1932]).

34 Schmitt, C., Constitutional Theory (2008 [1928]).

35 See for the basis of her presentation M. Goodwin, Romani lessons for European citizenship: from an imaginary community to an imagined citizenship?, in Fifty Years of European Integration: Foundations and Perspectives (A. Ott & E. Vos eds., 2009).

36 Arendt, H., Eichmann in Jerusalem; a report on the banality of evil (1963).

37 Koskenniemi, M., The Fate of Public International Law: Between Techniques and Politics, 70 Modern Law Review 1, 29 (2007).

38 On the issue, also within the context of constitutionalism, see: I. Ley, Verfassung ohne Grenzen? Zur Bedeutung von Grenzen im postnationalen Konstitutionalismus, in Europa jenseits seiner Grenzen, 91 (I. Pernice et al. eds., 2009).

39 Volk, C., From nomos to lex. Hannah Arendt on law, politics and order, 23 Leiden Journal of International Law 759 (2010),

40 Halberstam, D., Constitutional Heterarchy: The Centrality of Conflict in the European Union and the United States, in Ruling the World? Constitutionalism, International Law and Global Government, 326 (D. Jeff & J. Trachtman ed., 2009); N. Krisch, The Case for Pluralism in International Law, LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 12 (2009); N. Krisch, Beyond Constitutionalism: The Pluralist Structure of Postnational Law (2010); N. Walker, The Idea of Constitutional Pluralism, 65 The Modern Law Review 317 (2002).

41 Arendt, H., The Promise of Politics, 187 (2007).

42 Arendt, H., On Revolution, 142 (2006 [1963]).

43 On the issue see: H. Arendt, Civil Disobedience, in Crises of the Republic, 43 (H. Arendt, 1973).

44 See the German Federal Constitutional Court in its Lissabon judgment on the missing opposition in the European institutional system: Judgment of 06/30/2009, 2 BvE 2/08, paras. 215, 250, 280 et seq.; P. Mair, Political Opposition and the European Union, 42 Government and Opposition 1 (2007); J. Scott, International Trade and Environmental Governance: Relating Rules (and Standards) in the EU and the WTO, 15 EJIL 307 (2004).

45 Luhmann, N., Theorie der politischen Opposition, 36 Zeitschrift für Politik 13 (1989).

46 Laclau, E., Universalism, Particularism and the Question of Identity, in Emancipation(s), 20 (1996); E. Laclau, Subject of Politics, Politics of Subject, in Emancipation(s), 48 (1996).

47 Cited by M. Koskenniemi, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations, A culture of formalism, 494 (2002).

48 Lefort is one of the most important inspirations for Laclau. See: O. Marchart, Eine demokratische Gegenhegemonie, in Hegemonie gepanzert mit Zwang – Zivilgesellschaft und Politik im Staatsverständnis Antonio Gramscis, 105, 109, 115, 117 (Buckel & Fischer-Lescano eds., 2007); U. Stäheli, Die politische Theorie der Hegemonie: Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, in Politische Theorien der Gegenwart II, 193, 214 (Brodocz & Schaal eds., 2001); Luhmann refers to the former co-worker of Lefort Marcel Gauchet in his Die Zukunft der Demokratie, 4 Soziologische Aufklärung – Beiträge zur funktionalen Differenzierung der Gesellschaft 131, 133 (2005). For the way in which Lefort relates to Arendt, see: C. Lefort, Hannah Arendt et la question du politique, in Essais sur le politique – XIXe–XXe siècles, 64 (C. Lefort, 1986); and for the relation of Gauchet to Lefort see: O. Marchart, Die politische Theorie des zivilgesellschaftlichen Republikanismus: Claude Lefort und Marcel Gauchet, in Politische Theorien der Gegenwart II – Eine Einführung, 161 (A. Brodocz / G. Schaal ed., 2001).

49 Stressing this point: J. Klabbers, Possible Islands of Predictability: The Legal Thought of Hannah Arendt, 20 LJIL 1, 14, 18 (2007).

50 Kammerhofer, J., supra, note 3.

51 Stein, E., Lawyers, Judges, and the making of a transnational constitution, 75 AJIL 1 (1981); J. Weiler, The Transformation of Europe, 100 The Yale Law Journal 2403 (1991); K. Lenaerts, Constitutionalism and the Many Faces of Federalism, 38 American Journal of Comparative Law 205 (1990).

52 Fassbender, B., The United Nations Charter as Constitution of the International Community, 36 Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 529 (1998); C. Tomuschat, Obligations Arising for States Without or Against their Will, in Recueil des Cours, 195 (1993); The Constitutionalization of International Law (J. Klabbers, A. Peters & G. Ulfstein, 2009).

53 On this: I. Ley, Kant versus Locke: Europarechtlicher und völkerrechtlicher Konstitutionalismus im Vergleich, 69 ZaöRV 317, 326, 343 (2009).

54 Arendt, H., Preface: The Gap between Past and Future, in Between Past and Future – Six Exercises in Political Thought, 3, 8 (H. Arendt, 1961).

* The author is research assistant at the Chair for Public Law, International and European Law of Prof. Dr. Georg Nolte at Humboldt University, Berlin; email address: . Special thanks for help with the English language are due to Roland Satterwhite.

Which role for theory in international law? Report on the Workshop “Kelsen — Schmitt — Arendt: Constitutionalism in (International) Law”, Leipzig, June 11/12, 2009

  • Isabelle Ley

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