Winter 2021 | LAW 616 – Theories of International Law

Quarter: Winter 2021
Instructor: Richard H. Steinberg

Tuesday | 5:30pm - 7:30pm This course is intended for those interested in sophisticated international legal argumentation or those interested in scholarly debates about international law. The seminar will explore competing theories of international law, including approaches based on natural law, positivism, the Grotian tradition, realism, rational institutionalism, liberalism, social construction, and critical theory. We will read and discuss books and articles by leading international law theorists, consider how international legal arguments would be made through each theoretical perspective, and evaluate each approach according to several criteria, including explanatory power, parsimony, falsifiability, and prescriptive implications. Each student will prepare a final paper; there will be no final exam. Course Learning Outcomes: At the end of this course students will be able to: 1. engage in sophisticated argumentation about the nature of international law, what shapes it, and how it affects behavior; 2. understand, critique, and argue alternative interpretations of treaties, customary law, general principles of international law, law or norms generated by international organizations, and decisions of international courts and tribunals; and 3. provide thoughtful advice to policymakers on the pros and cons of particular reform proposals in the area of international law.