Issues of Empire, Contestation, and Hierarchy in the Globalization of Law


The essay takes a sociological approach to the narrative of progressive legalization -- the globalization of law. It sees the narrative itself as the product and stakes of imperial and professional competitions characterized by enduring hierarchies and structures of power. The essay begins by drawing on recent historical scholarship that focuses on the period prior to World War I. This work on a formative period effectively historicizes the narrative of progressive legality and introduces the issues that this essay addresses. The sociological approach that emerges – drawing on work co-authored with Yves Dezalay -- is related to various empirical and theoretical approaches to international law that are dominant in the literature today. The approach in this essay highlights issues of empire, hegemony, hierarchy, and contestation that are typically neglected in the literature on the globalization of law. The concluding part then highlights challenges to the progressive narrative that are not generally raised in the literature on the globalization of law.


UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2016-56

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