Chicago Journal of International Law


In 1982, I edited a volume on international regimes, a term that was just coming into wider usage in the field of international relations and which had some currency in international law. Most of the contributions to the volume, which dealt with a number of specific areas such as trade and finance, as well some more general theoretical explorations of the concept of regimes, were written by political scientists. The conference that preceded the publication of the volume, however, was attended by international lawyers and economists, as well as political scientists. For me, the conference illuminated a distinction that I had not fully appreciated between social scientists, the economists, and political scientists, on the one hand, and international lawyers on the other. The lawyers actually knew something, knew a great deal, about the specific character of international regimes, such as the rules of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs ("GATT"). The economists knew hardly anything at all. The discussions at the meeting, however, were dominated by the economists and political scientists. Now, perhaps this was simply because the lawyers were wise enough to realize that Palm Springs in the winter was better appreciated without spending an excessive amount of time ruminating about a concept as abstract as international regimes. It was evident enough that the political scientists did not have any real understanding about how the term should actually be understood. My own conclusion, however, was that the lawyers approached the issue of regimes in a fundamentally different way. The political scientists and economists were interested in formulating propositions that could be empirically tested. To some extent, they also shared a common explanatory, as well as methodological, frame. Whatever the international lawyers were doing, and I for one was not sure, was different. [CONT]