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?