Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Notable new book on the constitutionalization of international law

It’s rare to come across a collection of papers and to feel that one may be witnessing something fresh and important, the birth of a field, or at least a subfield. But I’ve had that experience twice this year – once this spring, when I got my hands on the recent “Rule by Law” collection edited by Tamir Moustafa and our own Tom Ginsburg on judicial politics in authoritarian regimes, and again last month with “Ruling the World: Constitutionalism, International Law, and Global Governance,” both published by Cambridge.

After stumbling across the introduction by the editors, Jeffrey Dunoff and Joel Trachtman, on SSRN, I discovered much to my annoyance that the book had not yet been published. So, being both cheap and impatient, I conned – I mean, persuaded – the folks at the Cambridge booth at the MPSA annual meeting in Chicago (one of the best political science conferences around, in case you’re wondering) into sending me an evaluation copy for purposes of course adoption. The request was in good faith, but at the same time the book isn’t the most obvious fit with anything I currently teach. Now I’m tempted to come up with a course that it would fit.

The contributors bring a copious amount of intellectual firepower to bear at the fast-evolving and rich confluence of the constitutionalism, global administrative law, and international law literatures. The book picks up speed immediately with Thomas Franck’s foreword (how often do you come across a genuinely substantive 4-page foreword with interesting ideas?) and follows it up with the Dunoff and Trachtman survey of this nascent field, David Kennedy’s highly readable and sometimes provocative meditation on the idea of the constitutionalization of international law, and so on. (Sadly, there is nothing by any of the contributors to this blog, but really, there’s no need to boycott the book for our sake.)

As I said, I like the idea of assigning this book as reading for an upper-level law (or possibly political science) seminar. The difficulty is figuring out exactly what course it belongs in. Comparative constitutional law? International law? That is, I suppose, both a great merit and a practical disadvantage of genuinely working across intradisciplinary boundaries – by definition, the work no longer fits neatly in a preexisting box.

Is there perhaps a lesson here for academic publishers? Allow me to suggest one: keep being extra-lenient when it comes to passing out those evaluation copies, because you never know what nice things someone might say about the book on a blog.


2 responses to “Notable new book on the constitutionalization of international law”

  1. David Fontana Avatar
    David Fontana

    David, very interesting. I wonder whether, as part of your comparative constitutional law course, you might also include a module on these sorts of issues (that is what I do).

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    I agree completely with your assessment of this book. I am in the middle of reading it and find it both thought provoking and comprehensive in its concerns. One of things I think is most admirable about it is the willingness on the part of the contributors (at least the ones I have read so far) to admit the nascent state of the field and the amount of research that remains to be done.

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