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From its inception, international law has been closely linked to philosophy and political theory, and over time competing theoretical approaches have emerged to explain international law’s nature, form, and efficacy. Even today, we associate the most authoritative names in the discipline – whether founders such as Grotius and Vattel or more modern figures ranging from Kelsen and Lauterpacht to contemporary writers such as Chimni, Chinkin, and Koskenniemi – with specific theoretical perspectives that engage foundational questions about international law’s purpose and content.
Every generation of scholars and practitioners reshapes international legal theory as it rethinks international law and its role in international affairs. Two decades ago, the American Journal of International Law (AJIL) published a “Symposium on Methods in International Law.” The AJIL Symposium took place toward the end of the 1990s, during heady times for international law.
Over the past decades international affairs have been increasingly legalized. International law has dramatically expanded into new fields and taken on new challenges. Despite this development, there has been little in-depth scholarship on what impact these changes have had on the field of international legal theory, how it is taught, and where it is going. This volume investigates the major developments in the field and explores the core assumptions and concepts, analytical tools, and key challenges associated with different approaches. An outstanding team of legal academics provides an accessible overview of competing theoretical movements, and a more in-depth understanding of the strengths, preoccupations, insights, and limits of those schools of thought. The contributions provide an authoritative account of current thinking about the theoretical foundations of contemporary international law and will serve as an indispensable resource for students, scholars, and practitioners.