The Rise of International Courts: Normative and Sociological Approaches

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A Max Weber Multidisciplinary Workshop

17 May 2016

Badia, Theatre

rise of international courts

This multidisciplinary workshop examines the rise of international courts and tribunals (ICs) and the underlying international legal system from a normative and sociological standpoint. The workshop centers around the question of what makes, if anything, the ICs and the international legal system legitimate. Normative and sociological theory scholars offer different responses to this question, but hardly discuss it together. However, a number of normative theorists interested in the legitimacy of ICs tend to assume that not all ICs can be assessed with the same overarching normative theory. The assumption alone, in the vein of the “turn to practice” in political theory, depends on both legal and sociological considerations. Therefore, normative theorists cannot roll over contextualization and may in fact benefit from sociological approaches for their own prescriptive endeavors.

Conversely, sociological approaches to international law shed light on the specific and embedded rationalities at play in the work and around the ICs. As such, they are reluctant to idealizing their analysis of the ICs in the vein of political theory. However, pointing to internalized norms and various forms of conflict, power and domination in and around ICs itself presupposes a normative framework in virtue of which those patterns can be identified. Yet sociologists often resist making their normative framework explicit, whereas normative theorists make it their top priority. The workshop therefore aims at exploring how both disciplinary perspectives can mutually inform each other in assessing the same and rapidly evolving object of study. It welcomes both abstract and more applied papers on the role of ICs and the nature and structure of the international legal system.


Dr Guy Aitchison (MWF, SPS); Sabine Mair (Researcher, Law); Dr Bilyana Petkova (MWF, Law); Dr Alain Zysset (MWF, Law)


8.45 am                       Welcome/opening remarks by the organizers

9 – 10 am                    Keynote speaker 1: Prof. Andreas Follesdal (Oslo) 

10 am – 12 am            Panel 1 (Privacy at the CJEU, chair: Alain Zysset) 

10 – 11 pm                  — Sabine Mair (Researcher, EUI): ‘Delineating the Private Sphere in EU Non-Discrimination law’

Discussant: Dr Anastasia Poulou (MWF)

11 am – 12 am             — Dr Bilyana Petkova (MWF): ‘Privacy as Europe’s First Amendment’

Discussant: Dr Jed Odermatt (MWF)


12 am – 1 pm              Lunch (Sala Rossa)

1 pm – 3 pm               Panel 2 (The legitimacy of the CJEU, chair: TBC)

1 pm – 2pm                 — Dr Anastasia Poulou (MWP): ‘Adjudicating Social Rights as a Question of Legitimacy: Lessons from the Eurozone Crisis’

Discussant: Dr Guy Aitchison (MWF)

2 pm – 3 pm                — Martijn Van den Brink (Researcher, EUI), TBC

Discussant: Dr Alain Zysset (MWF)

3 – 3.15 pm                 Coffee break


3.15 – 6.15 pm            Panel 3 (The legitimacy of human rights (courts)), chair: TBC)  

3.15 – 4.15                  Keynote speaker 2: Prof. Kirsten Hessler (Albany)

4.15- 5.15                    — Dr Alain Zysset (MWF): ‘The Legitimacy of International Courts and the Question of Community’

Discussant: Dr Peter Szigeti (MWF)

5.15 – 6.15                  — Dr Guy Aitchison (MWF): ‘A language of struggle or subordination? Thinking politically about human rights’

Discussant: Dr Anna Chadwick (MWF)

7 pm                            Dinner