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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Christopherson Knott Fellow's Seminar - Systemic Agency and the Making of International Law

15th October 2018, 13:00 to 14:00, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Dr Gleider Hernández (Durham University)


Perhaps due to our underlying anxieties about international law’s fragility, its systematicity is regarded as essentially axiomatic: whether an international legal order or system, international law is organised into a structure which possesses systemic qualities, at least in ‘methodological or analytical’ terms. Though perhaps, as Martti Koskenniemi has remarked, ‘By this no more need be meant than that the various decisions, rules, and principles of which the law consists do not appear randomly related to each other,’ once one ventures beyond the basic proposition that a legal order such as international law constitutes a legal system, inevitably questions arise: what precisely makes it a system; the kind of system that it is; and are there wider implications of asserting the systematic nature of international law? In this paper, Dr Gleider Hernández proposes to move beyond modelling international law as a system as such, and to study the recursive relationship between international law’s systematicity and the necessary role of individuals and institutions, and in particular the role of officials, in perpetuating that relationship. He calls these systemic agents, departing from Herbert Hart’s identification of certain institutional officials, such as judges, as ‘legal officials’. No legal (or in fact social) system can exist without the presence of individual agents who will act on its behalf, whether it is to safeguard its coherence and integrity, refashion it in line with evolutions in the society that it purports to regulate, or to propel it forward. Above all, they are connected through the existence of a unifying inner logic which transcends mere inter-State relations and constituting a functioning system, buttressed by the work of its officials.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues or students interested in attending a seminar should register online in advance to reserve a place. Places will be confirmed within 48 hours of receipt (subject to availability). Alternatively please contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

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