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Comparativism and Colonizing Thinking in International Law

  • JEAN D’ASPREMONT

Abstract

Comparison is a very common tool for international lawyers. In fact, international law is built around, and draws upon, constructions necessitating an exercise of comparison. In recent years, however, calls have been made to turn the familiar tool of comparison into a central way to engage with international law. This is the idea of those spearheading the rise of a new field called comparative international law. This article critically examines the promotion of comparison as a central mode of engagement with international law and scrutinizes some of the main features of the comparativist project. It particularly shows that the comparativist project, far from laying bare the plurality of international legal thought and practice, enables a thought-colonizing enterprise. The article ends with some reflective observations on the possibility of limiting colonizing thinking in international legal studies. In doing so, it argues that it must remain possible for international lawyers to engage with alterity in a way that does not unilaterally manufacture the “other,” silence it, and speak on its behalf. This approach is called counter-comparability.

Résumé

La comparaison est un instrument très ordinaire pour les internationalistes. En effet, le droit international s’articule autour d’un certain nombre de constructions qui nécessitent un exercice de comparaison. Ces dernières années, certains internationalistes ont proposé d’aller plus loin et de faire de la comparaison un outil central d’analyse en droit international. Cette idée se retrouve dans le projet de droit international comparé. C’est ce projet comparativiste qui retient l’attention ici. Cet article examine en effet les choix et les caractéristiques du projet comparativiste et cherche à démontrer en particulier que le projet comparativiste, bien loin de promouvoir un certain pluralisme de la pensée et de la pratique en droit international, favorise une pensée colonisatrice. Cet article offre par ailleurs une série de réflexions sur la possibilité de limiter, tant que faire se peut, la pensée colonisatrice dans le droit international. Il démontre qu’il doit être possible pour les internationalistes de se pencher sur l’altérité d’une manière qui ne fabrique pas unilatéralement l’“autre,” le condamne au silence et parle en son nom. Cette approche est dénommée la contre-comparabilité.

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1 In the same vein, see Butler, William E, “Comparative Approaches to International Law” (1985) 190 Rec des Cours 9 at 30 [Butler, “Comparative Approaches”].

2 For an overview, see ibid at 33–45. See also the literature cited by Roberts, Antheaet al, “Conceptualizing Comparative International Law” in Roberts, Antheaet al, eds, Comparative International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) 3 at 4, n 7 [Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing”; Roberts et al, Comparative International Law].

3 See Statute of the International Court of Justice, 26 June 1945, Can TS 1945 No 7 (entered into force 24 October 1945), art 38(1)(c). On the idea that general principles of law do not constitute a source, but, rather, a mode of interpretation by analogy, see d’Aspremont, Jean, “What Was Not Meant to Be: General Principles of Law as a Source of International Law” in Mazzeschi, Riccardo Pisillo & De Sena, Pasquale, eds, Global Justice, Human Rights, and the Modernization of International Law (Cham, Switzerland: Brill, 2018) 163.

4 See International Law Commission, “Draft Conclusions on Identification of Customary International Law with Commentaries” in Report of the International Law Commission on the Work of its Seventieth Session, UN GAOR, 73rd Sess, Supp No 10, Addendum, UN Doc A/73/10 (2018) at 137: “In examining whether the practice is consistent it is of course important to consider instances of conduct that are in fact comparable, that is, where the same or similar issues have arisen so that such instances could indeed constitute reliable guides.” See also Case of the S.S. “Lotus” (France v Turkey) (1927), PCIJ (Ser A) No 10 at 21.

5 Corfu Channel Case (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland v Albania), [1949] ICJ Rep 4. See generally Heathcote, Sarah, “State Omissions and Due Diligence: Aspects of Fault, Damage and Contribution to Injury in the Law of State Responsibility” in Bannelier, Karine, Christakis, Theodore & Heathcote, Sarah, eds, The ICJ and the Evolution of International Law: The Enduring Impact of the “Corfu Channel” Case (New York: Routledge, 2012) 295; Patrick Jacob, “Le contenu de la responsabilité de l’État négligent” in Société française pour le droit international & Sarah Cassella, eds, Le standard de due diligence et la responsabilité internationale (Journée d’études franco-italienne du Mans) (Paris: Pedone, 2018) 281.

6 See International Law Commission, “Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts” in Report of the International Law Commission on the Work of Its Fifty-Third Session, UN GAOR, 56th Sess, Supp No 10, UN Doc A/56/10 (2001) at c IV, para 76, art 31. See Case Concerning the Factory at Chorzów (Germany v Poland) (1928), PCIJ (Ser A) No 9 at 47 (“reparation must, so far as possible, wipe out all the consequences of the illegal act and reestablish the situation which would, in all probability, have existed if that act had not been committed”). For some remarks, see Brigitte Stern, “The Obligation to Make Reparation” in James Crawford, Alain Pellet & Simon Olleson, eds, The Law of International Responsibility (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) 563.

7 Lauterpacht, Hersch, Private Law Sources and Analogies of International Law (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1927).

8 For an overview as well as some critical remarks, see Bordin, Fernando Lusa, “Analogy” in d’Aspremont, Jean & Singh, Sahib, Concepts for International Law (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2018) 25.

9 For some criticisms of the use of comparative law methods to determine the normative standard applied by the European Court of Human Rights, see Carozza, Paolo, “Uses and Misuses of Comparative Law in International Human Rights: Some Reflections on the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights” (1997) 73 Notre Dame L Rev 1217. For some critical remarks on the exercise of comparison in international human rights law, see Samantha Besson, “Comparative Law and Human Rights” in Mathias Reimann & Reinhard Zimmermann, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law, 2nd ed (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019) 1222.

10 Schermers, Henry & Blokker, Neils, International Institutional Law, 6th ed (Leiden: Brill Nijhoff, 2018) at 4 (“we aim to offer a general framework for a better understanding of the (similarities and differences between) institutional rules of international organizations”).

11 For an overview as well as some critical remarks, see Ingrid Wuerth, “Compliance” in d’Aspremont and Singh, supra note 8, 117.

12 See de Wet, , “The Constitutionalisation of Public International Law” in Rosenfeld, Michel & Sajo, Andras, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 1209; Erika de Wet, “The International Constitutional Order” (2006) 55 ICLQ 51; Anne Peters, “The Merits of Global Constitutionalism” (2009) 16 Ind J Glob Leg Stud 397; Anne Peters, “Are We Moving towards Constitutionalisation of the World Community?” in Antonio Cassese, Realising Utopia: The Future of International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 118; Peters, Anne, “Compensatory Constitutionalism: The Function and Potential of Fundamental International Norms and Structures” (2006) 19 Leiden J Intl L 579.

13 See e.g. the studies on global administrative law by Kingsbury, Benedict, Krisch, Nico & Steward, Richard, “The Emergence of Global Administrative Law” (2005) 68:3–4Law & Contemp Probs 15 at 29; Carol Harlow, “Global Administrative Law: The Quest for Principles and Values” (2006) 17:1 EJIL 187.

14 See e.g. Koskenniemi, Martti, “The Case for Comparative International Law” (2009) 20 Finnish YB Intl L 1 [Koskenniemi, “Case for Comparative International Law”]. See also the foreword of Martti Koskenniemi in Anthea Roberts, Is International Law International? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017) xiii [Roberts, Is International Law International?].

15 On the comparativist project’s self-portrayal as an “approach,” see Anthea Roberts, “Is International Law International? Continuing the Conversation,” EJIL:Talk! (9 February 2018) [Roberts, “Continuing the Conversation”].

16 Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 4.

17 This is mentioned by Mamlyuk, Boris & Mattei, Ugo, “Comparative International Law” (2011) 36 Brook J Intl L 385 at 388.

18 Butler, “Comparative Approaches,” supra note 1.

19 See William Butler, International Law in Comparative Perspective (Alphen aan den Rijn: Brill, 1980); Edward McWhinney, “Operational Methodology and Philosophy for Accommodation of the Contending International Legal Systems” (1964) 50 Virginia L Rev 36; William Butler, “American Research on Soviet Approaches to Public International Law” (1970) 70 Colum L Rev 218 at 223–24. See also the work of Evgeny Korovin discussed by Mamlyuk & Mattei, supra note 17 at 394–406.

20 On the professionalization of international law, see generally Neff, Stephen C, Justice among Nations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014) 304; Jean d’Aspremont, “The Professionalization of International Law” in Jean d’Aspremont et al, International Law as Profession (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017); Anne Orford, “Scientific Reason and the Discipline of International Law” (2014) 25 EJIL 369 at 373; Benjamin Allen Coates, Legalist Empire. International Law and American Foreign Relations in the Early Twentieth Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) at 18–21, 61–68.

21 The point is made by Mamlyuk & Mattei, supra note 17 at 427.

22 Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, edited and with an introduction by Richard Tuck (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005), book I at 98, 341; book II at 776, 1093. Various explanations have been provided as to why Grotius was chosen as one of the fathers of international law in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and preferred to other writers. See e.g. Martti Koskenniemi who has referred to his “naturalist, scientifically-orientated way to look at the universe” as being instrumental in his success in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Martti Koskenniemi, “Histories of International Law: Significance and Problems for a Critical View” (2013) 27 Temple Intl & Comp LJ 215 at 217. Michael Lobban has argued that making Grotius and Emer de Vattel central markers was a way to respond to the attack of John Austin against international law. Michael Lobban, “English Approaches to International Law in the Nineteenth Century” in Matthew Craven, Malgosia Fitzmaurice & Maria Vogiatzi, eds, Time, History and International Law (Leiden: Brill, 2007) 80. It is noteworthy that, in 1946, Lauterpacht had already sought to explain the external and internal contingency that was conducive to the elevation of Grotius as a towering figure. See Hersch Lauterpacht, “The Grotian Tradition in International Law” (1946) 23 Brit YB Intl L 1 at 18–19. For Alain Wijffels, the success of Alberico Gentili and Grotius can be explained because their work could be read as “general handbooks of the law of nations in the modern sense,” thereby making international law a specialized branch of the law in its own right. They were the first authors to deal comprehensively with the law of nations. See Alain Wijffels, “Early-Modern Scholarship on International Law” in Alexander Orakhelashvili, ed, Research Handbook on the Theory and History of International Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2011) 23 at 42–44. For some recent critical remarks on how Grotius navigated several discourses, see Martti Koskenniemi, “Imagining the Rule of Law: Rereading the Grotian ‘Tradition’” (2019) 30 EJIL 17.

23 That comparison is the central mode of engagement with a certain legal practice or legal subject is not unheard of. This is, for instance, the case of comparative human rights law. See the remarks of Besson, supra note 9.

24 Koskenniemi, “Case for Comparative International Law,” supra note 14 at 8; Lauri Malksoo, Russian Approaches to International Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) at 17.

25 Anthea Roberts et al, “Comparative International Law: Framing the Field” (2015) 109 AJIL 467 at 467–68 [Roberts et al, “Framing”].

26 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 17. See also Malksoo, supra note 24 at 1.

27 Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 473.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid at 469–70. See also Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 7.

30 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 17. See also Malksoo, supra note 24 at 20.

31 Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 469; Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 4, 6.

32 Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 6.

33 Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 469.

34 See generally Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2; Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 19–50.

35 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 8–9, 23–27.

36 Ibid at 17. See also Malksoo, supra note 24 at 12–20; Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 471–72.

37 Roberts, “Continuing the Conversation,” supra note 15.

38 Ibid.

39 The foregoing solely bases itself on the research monograph, the edited collection, the seminal article, and the series of symposiums that have been dedicated to comparative international law.

40 Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 469–70. See also Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 7.

41 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 11; Roberts, “Continuing the Conversation,” supra note 15.

42 Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 470 (“comparative law methods may be relevant in identifying the existence and content of international law”).

43 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 48.

44 It speaks of the “knowledge derived from comparative analysis.” Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 473. See also Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 4, 6.

45 Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 473 (it “can help to design treaties and international institutions that are more responsive to diversity within the international legal system”).

46 On the idea that modernity generalized modes of thinking articulated around identity and differences, see Michel de Certeau, L’écriture de l’histoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1975) at 59; Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1966) at 68 [Foucault, Les mots]. See more generally Bruno Latour, Nous n’avons jamais été modernes. Essai d’anthropologie symétrique (Paris: La Découverte, 1997).

47 On the modern idea of the irreversibility of the learning process, see Habermas, Jürgen, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, translated by Lawrence, Frederick (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987) at 84.

48 Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, 2nd ed (New York: Routledge, 2007) at xxiii [Butler, Gender Trouble].

49 See e.g. Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 20–27. See also Anthea Roberts, “The Parochialism of Western Cosmopolitanism in a Competitive World Order,” EJIL:TALK! (7 February 2018) [Roberts, “Parochialism”] (comparative international law seeks to “provide a framework for understanding and analyzing … experiences that many international lawyers have had and yet are often not spoken about”).

50 For a similar argument, see Leiter, Andrea, “Review Essay of Anthea Roberts, Is International Law International?” (2018) 19 Melbourne J Intl L 1. See also the critical remarks of Hilary Charlesworth, “Comparative International Legal Methods” (Presentation at the 2018 Public Law Conference, Melbourne Law School, 11–13 July 2018).

51 On the idea that the comparativist project threatens the field’s universalist assumptions, see Mathias Forteau, “Comparative International Law within, Not against, International Law: Lessons from the International Law Commission” (2015) 109 AJIL 498 at 499. For praise of the comparativist project for threatening the field’s universalism, see Koskenniemi, “Case for Comparative International Law,” supra note 14 at 3.

52 See e.g. Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 11–17; Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 6–8.

53 Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 473.

54 Roberts, “Continuing the Conversation,” supra note 15. In the same sense, see Koskenniemi, “Case for Comparative International Law,” supra note 14 at 4.

55 Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 472–73. They also add: “[I]t is possible to see instances where the system is successful in spreading general norms as well as examples of where international law rules give rise to local adaptation or noncompliance.”

56 Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 9. Cf the use of “culture” as a pre-comparative tertium in comparative philosophy as critically discussed by Ralph Weber, “How to Compare: On the Methodological State of Comparative Philosophy” (2013) 8 Philosophy Compass 593.

57 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at xxi, 25.

58 For some criticisms of state-based bordering, see Vera Rusinova, “Can International Law Be More International?” EJIL:TALK! (8 February 2018). For a criticism that this aspect of the comparativist project comes with the risk of “reproducing identity politics of nationalism,” see Leiter, supra note 50. For a similar rejection of the claim that comparative international law exacerbates identity politics of nationalism, see Koskenniemi, “Case for Comparative International Law,” supra note 14 at 7.

59 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 11–17.

60 See White, Hayden, Tropics of Discourse. Essay in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986) at 1. On the idea that modernity simultaneously makes a universalist claim and a perspectivist claim, see Paul Ricoeur, La mémoire, l’histoire, l’oubli (Paris: Seuil, 2000) at 386–87.

61 Unger, Roberto Mangabeira, The Critical Legal Studies Movement: Another Time, A Greater Task (London: Verso, 2015) at 20. See more generally Peter Sloterdijk, Critique of Cynical Reason (Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).

62 On the modernism associated with the idea of comparative law and reminiscence of the 1900 Congrès international de droit comparé, see Hélène Ruiz Fabri, “From Babel to Esperanto and Back Again: The Fate of International Law (or of International Lawyers?),” EJIL:TALK! (8 February 2018). On the idea that comparative legal studies are themselves narratives of the making of “modern law,” comforting a Euro-American world, see Horatia Muir Watt, “Globalization and Comparative Law” in Mathias Reimann & Reinhard Zimmermann, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) 575 at 580, 596 [Muir Watt, “Globalization”]. See also Pierre Legrand, “The Same and the Different” in Pierre Legrand & Roderick Munday, eds, Comparative Legal Studies: Traditions and Transitions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 240 [Legrand, “The Same and the Different”]; Legrand, Pierre, “Comparative Legal Studies and the Matter of Authenticity” (2006) 1 J Comparative L 365 [Legrand, “Comparative Legal Studies”].

63 In the literature, the notion of commensurability is usually discussed through its antithesis — namely, incommensurability. The notion of incommensurability is said to originate in Greek mathematics to designate the situation where the ratio of the lengths of two line segments is irrational. This notion is commonly attributed to the Pythagoreans. See Ruth Chang, “Introduction” in Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997) 1 [Chang, Incommensurability]. See also H Patrick Glenn, “Are Legal Traditions Incommensurable?” (2001) 49 Am J Comp L 133 at 133. The notion resurfaced, in the twentieth century, in the philosophy of science in relation to the inability to translate one theory in terms of another theory (see Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970) at 85ff, 150ff ) as well as in moral philosophy where it has been extensively discussed in relation to the incommensurability of values (see generally Chang, Incommensurability, ibid). On the effect of equally valid, but mutually exclusive, values and the tragedy of human life, see Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (London: Bloomsbury, 1981) at 204. Mention of incommensurability has occasionally been made in legal theory. For example, Joseph Raz has sought to show the logical possibility of incommensurability: Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986) at 322, 334, ch 13. See also Cass Sunstein, “Incommensurability and Valuation in Law” (1994) 92 Mich L Rev 779; Nick Smith, “Incommensurability and Alterity in Contemporary Jurisprudence” (1997) 45 Buff L Rev 503; Riles, Annelise, “Wigmore’s Treasure Box: Comparative Law in the Era of Information” (1999) 40 Harv Intl LJ 221. In the legal theory context, incommensurability is sometimes associated with a form of epistemic constitutional pluralism. See e.g. Neil Walker, “The Idea of Constitutional Pluralism” (2002) 65 Mod L Rev 317 at 338–39 (where Walker speaks of the incommensurability of authority claims).

64 On the idea that commensurability thinking is inherited from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, see Alasdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy, and Tradition (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990) at 172 [MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions].

65 For a similar use of Kuhnian commensurability, see Sahib, Sahib Singh, “Narrative and Theory: Formalism’s Recurrent Return” (2014) 84 Brit YB Intl L 304 at 317–18.

66 Weber, supra note 56 at 596.

67 Plato, Phaedo, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) at 100e–101a.

68 Cf Pahuja, Sundhya, “Laws of Encounter: A Jurisdictional Account of International Law” (2013) 1 London Rev Intl L 63 at 65–66 (“[i]n this ready-made world, one variant of jurisdiction is ‘law’ tout court, a limited range of authority is seen as law-giving, and the elements, objects, and subjects of that law are already formed, and have a status which pre-exists the law”).

69 Roberts et al, “Framing,” supra note 25 at 474.

70 Other comparative enterprises similarly perpetuate normative commensurability thinking. See e.g. Bradley, Curtis A, ed, The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Foreign Relations Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

71 See the first part of this article.

72 Roberts et al, “Conceptualizing,” supra note 2 at 4, 12–16.

73 This contributes to the subversive dimension of comparative law. See generally Watt, Horatia Muir, “La fonction subversive du droit comparé” (2000) 52 RIDC 503; George Fletcher, “Comparative Law as a Subversive Discipline” (1998) 46 Am J Comp L 683.

74 See the discussion of Roderick Munday, “Accounting for an Encounter” in Legrand & Munday, supra note 62, 3 at 19–20.

75 Sacco, Rodolfo, “Legal Formants: A Dynamic Approach to Comparative Law (Installment I of II)” (1991) 39:1Am J Comp L 1 at 6–7.

76 Frankenberg, Günter, “Constitutional Transfer: The IKEA Theory Revisited” (2010) 8 Intl J Constitutional L 563 at 575.

77 Abel, Richard, “Law as Lag: Inertia as a Social Theory of Law” (1982) 80 Mich L Rev 785.

78 Frankenberg, Günter, “Critical Histories of Comparative Law” in Dubber, Markus & Tomlins, Christopher, eds, Oxford Handbook of Legal History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018) 43 at 54.

79 Twining, William, “Diffusion of Law: A Global Perspective” (2004) 36 J Leg Pluralism & Unofficial L 1 at 33.

80 Mitchel Lasser, “The Question of Understanding” in Legrand & Munday, supra note 62, 197 at 218–19; Yves Dezalay & Bryant Garth, “The Import and Export of Law and Legal Institutions: International Strategies in National Palace Wars” in David Nelken & Johannes Feest, eds, Adapting Legal Cultures (Oxford: Hart, 2001) 241; Glenn, supra note 63 at 143.

81 Lasser, supra note 80 at 219.

82 David Nelken, “Towards a Sociology of Legal Adaptation” in Nelken & Feest, supra note 80, 7 at 16.

83 Glenn, supra note 63 at 145 (“if we can compare and commensurate, we are vulnerable to imposition of the large, single value in the process of such comparison or commensuration”).

84 Lasser, supra note 80 at 204. See also Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 246.

85 For an overview, see David Kennedy, “The Mystery of Global Governance” (2008) 34 Ohio NUL Rev 827.

86 On the idea of the colonizing gesture, see Butler, Gender Trouble, supra note 48 at 18. On a similar use of the idea of colonizing, see also Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

87 On discourses silencing the “others” that they have created, see de Certeau, supra note 46 at 15–20; Butler, Gender Trouble, supra note 48 at 2–4; Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, vol 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011) at 5 [Derrida, Beast and the Sovereign, vol 1].

88 On the idea of naturalistic necessity, see Butler, Gender Trouble, supra note 48 at 45.

89 See Derrida, Beast and the Sovereign, vol 1, supra note 87 at 8–9.

90 This is a charge made by Pierre Legrand against traditional comparative law studies. See Legrand, “Comparative Legal Studies”, supra note 62 at 426. For further remarks on traditional comparative law studies, see discussion later in this article.

91 Butler, Gender Trouble, supra note 48 at 10.

92 Derrida, Beast and the Sovereign, vol 1, supra note 87 at 279.

93 Sundhya Pahuja, “The Postcoloniality of International Law” (2005) 46 Harv Intl LJ 459.

94 On the comparativist project’s self-portrayal as an “approach,” see Roberts, “Continuing the Conversation,” supra note 15.

95 Roberts, “Parochialism,” supra note 49. See also Anthea Roberts, “Is International Law International? Continuing the Conversation,” Opinio Juris (9 February 2018); Roberts, “Continuing the Conversation,” supra note 15.

96 See generally the contents of Roberts et al, Comparative International Law, supra note 2 at 11.

97 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 46 (citing Wittgenstein).

98 This is not to mention the possibility of the comparativist project facilitating definitions of resemblances and differences in the world by reference to a privileged self, which is a question that is not addressed here. This is a point I owe to one of the anonymous reviewers.

99 Günter Frankenberg, “Critical Comparisons: Re-thinking Comparative Law” (1985) 26 Harv Intl LJ 411 at 422 [Frankenberg, “Critical Comparisons”].

100 Legrand, “Comparative Legal Studies,” supra note 62 at 422.

101 Ibid at 412, 423.

102 See also Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 287.

103 Ibid at 307–08.

104 Ibid at 261.

105 See also ibid at 255 (“it is impossible for the comparatist-as-observer ever to demonstrate sameness non-ethnocentrically because any understanding on his part assumes integration into his already-understood world, a world he cannot actually reflect himself out of”).

106 Michael Werner & Bénédicte Zimmermann, “Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisée and the Challenge of Reflexivity” (2006) 45 History and Theory 30 at 34.

107 Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 300.

108 Muir Watt, “Globalization,” supra note 62 at 603.

109 Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 308.

110 See generally Upendra Baxi, “The Colonialist Heritage” in Legrand & Munday, supra note 62, 46; Frankenberg, “Critical Comparisons,” supra note 99 at 422; William Twining, “Social Science and Diffusion of Law” (2005) 32 JL & Soc’y 203 at 207, 239.

111 Pierre Giuseppe Monateri, “Black Gaius: A Quest for Multicultural Origins of the ‘Western Legal Tradition’” (2000) 51 Hastings LJ 479; Muir Watt, “Globalization, supra note 62 at 596.

112 See Baxi, supra note 110 at 50–51. See also the discussion of this question in Muir Watt, “Globalization, supra note 62 at 595–603.

113 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 5.

114 Ibid at 17.

115 For a similar criticism with respect to comparative legal studies, see Legrand, “Comparative Legal Studies,” supra note 62 at 371.

116 Roberts, Is International Law International?, supra note 14 at 11.

117 It is interesting to note that the concept of legal pluralism is never directly invoked by the authors of the comparativist project but found in the works they rely on. See, however, ibid at xxi.

118 The idea that comparative law is a means to order pluralism is not new. See Mireille Delmas-Marty, “Comparative Law and International Law: Methods for Ordering Pluralism” (2006) 3 U Tokyo JL & Politics 43.

119 See Koskenniemi, “Case for Comparative International Law,” supra note 14 at 5 (“[t]he question remains how to identify and compare autochthonous forms of thinking about inter-community relations that would not necessarily be subsumable under European legal categories but would stand on their own and thus also provide a wider comparative perspective under which European categories could be examined as equally ‘provincial’ as others”).

120 For a similar plea with respect to private international law, see Horatia Muir Watt, “Discours sur les méthodes du droit international privé (des formes juridiques de l’inter-altérité): Cours général de droit international privé” (2018) 389 Rec des Cours 363 [Muir Watt, “Discours”]. For a similar plea with respect to comparative law, see Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 250, 307, 369, 373.

121 See note 29 above. On the idea that the correspondence of the self’s apprehension of the “other” with the “other” also constitutes a very modern characteristic of knowledge, see Legrand, “Comparative Legal Studies,” supra note 62 at 396.

122 In the same vein, see Legrand, “Comparative Legal Studies,” supra note 62 at 427; see also Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 251.

123 In the same vein, see Glenn, supra note 63 at 139.

124 See also Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 251–52. See also Legrand, “Comparative Legal Studies,” supra note 62 at 427.

125 Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, vol 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011) at 9 [Derrida, Beast and the Sovereign, vol 2]; Bruno Latour, La fabrique du droit: Une ethnographie du Conseil d’État (Paris: La Découverte, 2004) at 294 [Latour, Fabrique du droit].

126 Michel Foucault, L’archéologie du savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1969) at 204 [Foucault, L’archéologie]; Derrida, Beast and the Sovereign, vol 2, supra note 125 at 140; Stanley Fish, Doing What Comes Naturally (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1989) at 143. Contra on the possibility of a metaphysical difference and of incommensurability, see Emmanuel Levinas, Totalité et infini (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1971).

127 See also Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 250, 281–82.

128 MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions, supra note 64 at 13, 171. See also Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (London: Duckworth, 1988) at 375–79.

129 George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, 3rd ed (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) at xiii–xiv (“it is the constructive powers of language to conceptualize the world which have been crucial to man’s survival in the face of ineluctable biological constraints, that is to say in the face of death. It is the miraculous … capacity of grammars to generate counter-factuals, ‘if’-propositions and, above all, future tenses, which have empowered our species to hope, to reach far beyond the extinction of the individual”).

130 Jean-François Lyotard, La condition postmoderne (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1979) at 59; Foucault, Les mots, supra note 46 at 381.

131 Edward Said, The World, the Text, and the Critic (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983) at 26.

132 Butler, Gender Trouble, supra note 48 at xxvi.

133 Bruno Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013) at 370. See also Latour, Fabrique du droit, supra note 125 at 235.

134 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (London: Bloomsbury, 2013) at 55, 338. See also Stanley Fish, Is There a Text in This Class? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980) at 360.

135 What is more, transcending the situatedness of any knowledge or experience of alterity would manifest the same modernist ambition for true knowledge as that informing the comparativist project. See the second part above.

136 Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 297 (“[t]he immediate goal, therefore, must be to move toward a variation on what feminists refer to as ‘standpoint epistemology’ — a standpoint implying a keen awareness of the material and social circumstances under which knowledge emerges and, thus, being understood as ‘a hard-won product of consciousness-raising and social-political engagement’ as regards the fabrication of knowledge-claims, which insists not only on context, but also on contextualization or complexification of context, that is, on the particularization of the social and institutional practices within which knowledge is formed or produced”).

137 Cf the notion of “hospitality” developed by Jacques Derrida, De l’hospitalité (Paris: Éditions Calmann-Levy, 1997). For some reflections on the idea of “hospitality” in private international law, see Muir Watt, “Discours,” supra note 120.

138 Latour, Fabrique du droit, supra note 125 at 294; Derrida, Beast and the Sovereign, vol 2, supra note 125 at 8–9.

139 Roland Barthes, Leçon (Paris: Seuil, 1978) at 46.

140 The idea of “mis-cognition” was coined by Pierre Bourdieu in “A Lecture on the Lecture” in Pierre Bourdieu, In Other Words: Essays towards a Reflexive Sociology, translated by Matthew Adamson (Stanford, CT: Stanford University Press, 1990) 177 at 183, 189. See also the definition of mis-cognition by Richard Terdiman in his introduction to the translation of Pierre Bourdieu, “The Force of Law: Toward a Sociology of the Juridical Field” (1987) 38:5 Hastings LJ 805 at 813: “Miscognition is the term by which Bourdieu designates induced misunderstanding, the process by which power relations come to be perceived not for what they objectively are, but in a form which renders them legitimate in the eyes of those subject to the power. This induced misunderstanding is obtained not by conspiratorial, but by structural means. It implies the inherent advantage of the holders of power through their capacity to control not only the actions of those they dominate, but also the language through which those subjected comprehend their domination. Such miscognition is structurally necessary for the reproduction of the social order, which would become intolerably conflicted without it.” Bourdieu’s concept of miscognition is distinct from Charles Taylor’s concept of misrecognition by which he refers to the absence of recognition of others. See Charles Taylor, “The Politics of Recognition” in Amy Gutmann, ed, Multiculturalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994) 25. As was usefully pointed out to me by an anonymous reviewer, although Charles Taylor’s perspective is (group) identity, whereas Bourdieu’s focus is on knowledge, it cannot be denied that, to a large extent, identity and knowledge are two faces of the same coin.

141 Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 242.

142 See also ibid at 250.

143 Xianglong Zhang, “Comparison Paradox, Comparative Situation and Inter-Paradigmaticy: A Methodological Reflection on Cross-Cultural Philosophical Comparison” (2010) 1 Comparative Philosophy 90 at 99–100 (“[t]he so-called ‘inter-paradigmaticy’ is a conscious state that, although abiding in one paradigm, is strongly aware of the heterogeneous and even threatening presence of other paradigms; an awareness prior to the so-called ‘fusion of horizons’, and nevertheless manages to maintain a marginal albeit authentic existence at the interval of paradigms by certain non-conceptual, non-universalistic means, such as, various forms of language-games (including translation) or spontaneous modes of conscious acts”).

144 Rancière, Jacques, Le maître ignorant: Cinq leçons sur l’émancipation intellectuelle (Paris: Fayard, 1987) at 46, 52.

145 Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 304, 307.

146 It is different from the strategy of promoting re-appropriation of the global by the local. See generally Muir Watt, “Globalization,” supra note 62 at 588ff.

147 Jacques Derrida, L’écriture et la différence (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1967) at 46 [Derrida, L’écriture].

148 See Helen Verran, “Engagements between Disparate Knowledge Traditions: Toward Doing Difference Generatively and in Good Faith” in Lesley Green, ed, Contested Ecologies: Dialogues in the South on Nature and Knowledge (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2013) 141; John Law & Wen-Yuan Lin, “Cultivating Disconcertment” (2010) 58 Sociological Rev 135.

149 Foucault, L’archéologie, supra note 126 at 41–44.

150 Cf the idea of making the “other” an “interlocutor.” See Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 250. Cf also the idea of “hosting” discussed by Muir Watt, “Discours,” supra note 120 at 379–95.

151 On the idea that difference is “inexhaustible,” see Legrand, “The Same and the Different,” supra note 62 at 285, 298.

152 Ibid at 297 (“comparatists must attempt to struggle out of their characteristic — and characteristically, in their case, rule-oriented — social position and condition”).

153 Cf ibid at 283.

154 See Derrida, L’écriture, supra note 147 at 46 (“[d]ans ce langage, il faut donc tenter de s’affranchir. Non pas tenter de s’en affranchir, car c’est impossible sans oublier notre histoire. Mais en rêver. Non pas de s’en affranchir, ce qui n’aurait aucun sens et nous priverait de la lumière du sens. Mais de lui résister le plus loin possible. Il faut en tous cas ne pas s’abandonner à lui de cet abandon qui est aujourd’hui la mauvaise ivresse du formalisme structuraliste le plus nuancé”).

Keywords

Comparativism and Colonizing Thinking in International Law

  • JEAN D’ASPREMONT

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