Editor’s Note: This post continues our discussion of Klabbers, Peters & Ulfstein, The Constitutionalization of International Law. In this post Prof. Peters responds to earlier posts by Professors Dunoff and Trachtman , Steven Wheatley, Jean Cohen, and Dan Bodansky.
It is an honour to receive comments by distinguished experts on constitutionalism and international law. And it is fun to engage in a substantial discussion on difficult issues.
1. Method: All commentators raised important methodological issues.
Description and (‘top down’) prescription
Dunoff and Trachtman reproach us of a ‘top down’ approach to constitutionalism. In the introductory chapter, it was made clear that the book is, as such, a normative exercise, on a middle level of abstractness, and hooking onto existing legal rules, principles, and institutions. To the extent that this meant to ‘extrapolate’ trends (of constitutionalization), the study included the claim that these trends actually exist (a claim which was openly formulated in the book).
Dunoff and Trachtman also reproach us of embracing an ‘overly heroic vision of the law’. This critique manifests a disciplinary rift in the approaches of the two books, ours and the one edited by our critics. (see here). Dunoff and Trachtman espouse a more empirical method, more informed by social science. In contrast, we as a trio have not attempted to apply sociological methods, neither in quantitative not in qualitative terms. Our arguments are, as declared in Chapter 1, normative ones.
International constitutional law and politics
Steven Wheatley points out that the ‘language and metaphors of constitutionalism suggests a realm of (“neutral” and “objective”) discourse that sits above … politics’, whereas in reality the ‘global constitutional settlement … is the product of political debate, discourse, and will’. Along that line, Dunoff and Trachtman suspect us of *’under-estimating the role of international politics’.
Dunoff and Trachtman are right in saying that the enactment of positive law is only a ‘starting point, rather than a culmination’. Nevertheless, any (political) action does need a starting point. Under the rule of law, positive law is indeed a conditio sine qua non of governmental action. I postulate that there is an international rule of law which requires international governance to be based on legal rules (i.e. on formal and general prescriptions) as opposed to governance by ad hoc decisions.
Moreover, law and politics should not be viewed as distinct realms, but rather as deeply intertwined. Law is both the product (and desired consequence) of political activity, and an organizer and limit of political action. In particular, constitutional law is a branch of law which is very close to politics. Read the rest of this entry…