Sociological Orientation of International Law? Theoretical Constraints and Challenges for Socio-Legal Research

By Muruga Perumal Ramaswamy.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Interdisciplinary legal research is often propounded to effectively address legal challenges in diverse fields of law. The wider perception of law as an instrument of social change naturally makes the method of socio-legal research a much desirable tool. But the utility of this method has been limited in inquiries of international law. It is the fundamental nature of the international, which alienates the relevance of socio-legal research. Modern international law is heavily influenced by the Westphalian system of states based on the principles of sovereignty, making it more of a state and less of a sociologically oriented system. Although this characterization is challenged by revisionists and international relations theorists, international legal system predominantly reveals the traits of sovereignty. The primacy of states as subjects of international law, as distinct from municipal laws governing natural and legal persons raise concerns regarding sociological inquiries of the former. Profound legal philosopher of sociological jurisprudence, Julius Stone has exposed the constraints of such inquiries of international law around the middle of the last century in his famous Recueil of the Hague Academy of International Law. However, since then there is a revival of interest in investigating the sociological foundations of international law given its fast changing landscape. In such a context, it is necessary to reexamine the major constraints of sociological enquiries identified by Julius Stone in order to ascertain whether they continue to pose challenges. In spite of constraints identified by Julius Stone, several scholars including Stone himself had propounded theories and visions for an increased sociological orientation of international law. The present paper not only intends to examine some of the major constraints of sociological enquiries identified by Stone but also equally aims at analyzing his evaluation of major theories and suggestions propounded by scholars in overcoming the constraints.

Keywords: International Law and Sociology, Socio-legal Enquiries of International Law, Sociological Jurisprudence and International Law

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 9, pp.29-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 640.098KB).

Dr. Muruga Perumal Ramaswamy

Assistant Professor and Area Co-ordinator of Master Studies in Internatiional Law, Faculty of Law, University of Macau, Macau, China

The author has a specific interest in interdisciplinary legal research methods. This paper is the result of a part of the research carried out with a University Grant focusing on practical issues in conducting legal research. The author would like to thank and acknowledge the research grant. Deriving from the research experience of the project, the present paper focuses on the interdisciplinary legal research of sociology and international law.


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