New book on the democratic legitimacy of international law

The Democratic Legitimacy of International Law

by Steven Wheatley

(Hart, June 2010)

424 pages


The objective of this work is to restate the requirements of democratic legitimacy in terms of the deliberative ideal developed by Jürgen Habermas, and apply the understanding to the systems of global governance. The idea of democracy requires that the people decide, through democratic procedures, all policy issues that are politically decidable. But the state is not a voluntary association of free and equal citizens; it is a construct of international law, and subject to international law norms. Political self-determination takes places within a framework established by domestic and international public law. A compensatory form of democratic legitimacy for inter-state norms can be established through deliberative forms of diplomacy and a requirement of consent to international law norms, but the decline of the Westphalian political settlement means that the two-track model of democratic self-determination is no longer sufficient to explain the legitimacy and authority of law. The emergence of non-state sites for the production of global norms that regulate social, economic and political life within the state requires an evaluation of the concept of (international) law and the (legitimate) authority of non-state actors. Given that states retain a monopoly on the coercive enforcement of law and the primary responsibility for the guarantee of the public and private autonomy of citizens, the legitimacy and authority of the laws that regulate the conditions of social life should be evaluated by each democratic state. The construction of a multiverse of democratic visions of global governance by democratic states will have the practical consequence of democratising the international law order, providing democratic legitimacy for international law.

Contents [pdf]

1. The Democratic Deficit in Global Governance
2. Democracy Within and Beyond the State
3. The State as (Democratic) Self-Legislator
4. The Constitutionalisation of International Law Studies in International Law
5. Democracy in International Law
6. International Governance by Non-State Actors
7. A Concept of (International) Law
8. Deliberative Democracy Beyond the State
9. Democracy in Conditions of Global Legal Pluralism
Conclusion: Democracy and the Public International Lawyer

Steven Wheatley is Professor of International Law at the Law School, University of Leeds.


Critical essays on Sen/Nussbaum's capabilities approach

Capabilities, Power, and Institutions
Toward a More Critical Development Ethics

Ed. by Stephen L. Esquith & Fred Gifford

(Pennsylvania State University Press, June 2010)

216 pages

Development economics, political theory, and ethics long carried on their own scholarly dialogues and investigations with almost no interaction among them. Only in the mid-1990s did this situation begin to change, primarily as a result of the pioneering work of an economist, Amartya Sen, and a philosopher who doubled as a classicist and legal scholar, Martha Nussbaum. Sen’s Development as Freedom (1999) [preview] and Nussbaum's Women and Human Development (2000) [preview] together signaled the emergence of a powerful new paradigm that is commonly known as the “capabilities approach” to development ethics. Key to this approach is the recognition that citizens must have basic capabilities provided most crucially through health care and education if they are to function effectively as agents of economic development. Capabilities can be measured in terms of skills and abilities, opportunities and control over resources, and even moral virtues like the virtue of care and concern for others. The essays in this collection extend, criticize, and reformulate the capabilities approach to better understand the importance of power, especially institutional power.

In addition to the editors, the contributors are Sabina Alkire, David Barkin, Nigel Dower, Shelley Feldman, Des Gasper, Daniel Little, Asunción Lera St. Clair, A. Allan Schmid, Paul B. Thompson, and Thanh-Dam Truong.

The capabilities approach was first fully articulated in Amartya Sen's "Commodities and Capabilities" (Oxford University Press, 1985) and was further developed in "The Quality of Life" (Clarendon Press, 1993) edited by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum.


Bloomsday June 16, 2010 - Video from UCD

Video from Bloomsday June 16 at University College Dublin with Jürgen Habermas and the ten recipients of honorary degrees:

"Bloomsday 2010 at UCD"
(video, 15 minutes)

Jürgen Habermas received the UCD Ulysses Medal.

See Maeve Cooke's laudatio for Habermas here (pdf).

The honorary degrees were conferred on Broadcaster and historian, John Bowman; Internationally acclaimed author, Colm Tóibín; NGO anti-hunger campaigner, Tom Arnold; Journalist and agriculture expert, Matt Dempsey; Medical researcher and physician, Martin Carey; Chemist, Tadhg Begley; French novelist, playwright and feminist theorist, Hélène Cixous; French medical scientist, Laurent Perret; Pioneering scientist, Raymond Dwek; and Philosopher, Thomas McCarthy.

My previous posts on the event here and here.


Report from the Frankfurt conference on human rights

On the blog "theorieblog.de", Franziska Dübgen summarizes the content of the main contributions at the recent conference in Frankfurt on "Human Rights Today":

"Zwischen Ambivalenz und Ordnung: Die Politik der Menschenrechte"

The speakers at the conference were Rainer Forst, Christoph Menke, Charles Beitz, John Tasioulas, Abdullahi Ahmes An-Na’im, Jürgen Habermas, Susanne Baer, Hans Joas, Seyla Benhabib, Étienne Balibar, and Costas Douzinas.

See my previous posts here and here.


Amartya Sen & David Held discuss "The Idea of Justice"

At London School of Economics on July 8, 2010:

Amartya Sen and David Held will discuss Sen's new book, The Idea of Justice (Harvard University Press, 2009).

The event is free but a ticket is required. More information here.

David Held is Professor of Political Science at LSE.

Amartya Sen is Lamont University Professor at Harvard University and an honorary fellow of LSE. He won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998.

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