International Law and Multinormativity

From European to Global Orders: International Law and Normativity in Context

The powerful and complex system of norms we nowadays refer to as international law originated from the European Law of Nations. Today, it provides the framework for relations between a multitude of actors. Since its emergence, however, it is not only the terminology that has changed, (Ius Publicum Europaeum à International Law/Droit International/Völkerrecht), but also its underlying concepts, such as statehood, sovereignty, and political legitimacy. In the last decades, the steady increase of international legal norms in the context of globalization led to the juridification of ever more aspects of inter-state relations.

Despite these momentous changes, clear and strong lines of continuity run between past and present international law, both in state practice and in doctrine. Critical approaches in legal history and legal scholarship, which are featured in this project, aim to identify and analyze these continuities, and seek to challenge established narratives on institutions, actors, and legal structures. Important impulses for such approaches derive from postcolonial studies, global history and related disciplines, which open up new perspectives on both the history and the present form of international relations and international law. Critical legal scholars and historians thus argue that narratives like the ones of ‘progress‘ and ‘civilization‘ were used to legitimize Western hegemony also in terms of international law, and that these persist in international law discourses, having merely been rephrased in terms of economic and social development policies.

This Research Project seeks to engage in the crucial discussion of these issues. International law is only one system of rules next to other normative fields: its manifold and complex interactions with other normativities will be analyzed from the perspective of ‘multi-normativity’ (Vec, 2009). This term describes the cooperation, conflict and coexistence of law with non-legal norms, such as morality, religious law, social conventions and technical standards. The relations of these different normativities produce the complex and often contradictory regulatory regimes which shape today’s global order, mirroring the ambivalence and fragmentation of modern societies.

poster-challenging-narratives-28-29-nov-2016From November 28-29, 2016 an international workshop entitled „From European to Global Orders: International Law and Normativity in Context — Challenging Narratives” and organized by IWM Permanent Fellow Miloš Vec took place in the IWM library. It was the kick-off workshop of his research focus “International Law and Multinormativity”. Participants included international researcher in (international) law, history, political sciences, and philosophy (see program). The workshop was generously supported by Fritz Thyssen Foundation.


Publications and Events

Head of Program

  • Miloš Vec

    IWM Permanent Fellow
    Professor of European Legal and Constitutional History, University of Vienna
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Former Fellows & Guests

  • Andrew Brandel

    PhD in Anthropology, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
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  • Filipe Calvao

    Assistant Professor , Department of Anthropology and Sociology of Development, Graduate Institute, Geneva
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  • Till van Rahden

    Canada Research Chair in German and European Studies, Centre Canadien D‘Études Allemandes et Européennes, Université de Montréal
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