Positivism and the Pesky Sovereign

Dyzenhaus, David
May 2011
European Journal of International Law;May2011, Vol. 22 Issue 2, p363
Academic Journal
I argue that Hans Kelsen anticipated the main contribution of Jeremy's Waldron's article: the idea that the place of nation states in the international legal order is akin to that of administrative agencies in the domestic legal order, and thus as wielding delegated rather than original authority. For both wish to understand sovereignty as a kind of metaphor for the unity of a legal system rather than as a pre-legal entity. However, legal positivism is unable to make the move to conceiving of sovereignty that way, since the positivist prejudice against natural law has the result that the idea of a pre-legal sovereign is repressed in one place only to pop up in multiple others. In issue in this debate are two conceptions of the rule of law, a positivistic conception that the rule of law consists mainly of determinate rules and a Fullerian conception in which the rule of law is understood as facilitating a certain process of reason and argument. Since Waldron sees the attraction of the latter conception, and since that conception avoids the problem of the pesky sovereign, I suggest that Waldron should embrace it.


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