‘From the wells of disappointment’: the curious case of the international law of democracy and the politics of international legal scholarship

Rasulov, A. (2021) ‘From the wells of disappointment’: the curious case of the international law of democracy and the politics of international legal scholarship. European Journal of International Law, 32(1), pp. 17-47. (doi: 10.1093/ejil/chab026)

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It is a common impression shared by many international lawyers today that the brief ‘turn to democracy’ that occurred in some segments of international legal scholarship in the early to mid-1990s was, on the whole, little more than a detour of overly excitable imagination – not exactly a complete error of judgement or an outright frivolity, but certainly a lapse of conceptual clarity and professional rigour. Whatever changes may have occurred within the broader international legal system, the argument goes, they certainly did not amount to a ‘democratic revolution’, and any claims to the contrary were and are simply baseless. The kind of fundamental reorganization of the international legal system that was forecasted by scholars like Thomas Franck and Anne-Marie Slaughter never took place, and the main lesson one should learn from this whole episode is that international legal scholars should not give in to their utopian reflexes as quickly and as readily as the ‘pro-democracy enthusiasts’ did, but should rather exercise analytical restraint and professional judgement and attend much more carefully to matters of legal logic and technical legal reasoning. This, in a nutshell, is the received wisdom about the history behind international law’s ‘turn to democracy’, and the aim of this article is essentially to challenge it – in part by uncovering the latent theoretical fudging behind it, in part by exploring the general narrative structure that supports this received wisdom and the latter’s relationship to the broader ideology of international legal anti-utopianism.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Rasulov, Professor Akbar
Authors: Rasulov, A.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Journal Name:European Journal of International Law
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1464-3596
Published Online:04 May 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Author
First Published:First published in European Journal of International Law 32(1): 17-47
Publisher Policy:Reproduce in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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