Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 January 2011
Contemporary international law is trapped between an incomprehensible reality of fragmentation and a sentimental dream of constitutional order: between Apology and Utopia. The process of fragmentation is a direct result of the technicalisation and specialisation inherent in the modern project of a professional international law: the attempt to model international law ever more closely on its municipal counterpart; to secure for international law the autonomy of national law.
Constitutionalism forms the limit point of the juridical imagination: the ‘iron cage’, or condition of possibility, of modern juridical thought. As a result, international lawyers generally, and (incorporationist) trade lawyers in particular, have sought refuge in the idea of ‘coherence’. In accordance with this ideal, the disparate branches of a fragmented international law are to, and thus can, be brought, non-coercively, into a rational order – an order within which the essence of each sub-system is preserved, and their surface differences are shown to yield an underlying harmony of interests.
However, this dream is unsubstantiated! In reality, coherence represents not a natural confluence of interests, but the unequal compromise of competing worldviews caught in mortal conflict. Because coherence is an unattainable goal, the search for ‘coherence’ becomes the wilful disregard of a reality of conflict, the hegemonic imposition of a particular project which has, always already, subsumed and regulated its ‘others’.