Chicago Journal of International Law


I loathe international law scholarship for much the same reasons David Byrne hates world music. Music might seem an odd pairing with international law. And certainly David Byrne (rock musician, member of the former band, "Talking Heads," and now manager of his own record label) is an especially peculiar companion for me in this meditation on what is wrong with international law as an academic discipline. But in a recent article in The New York Times,' Byrne lays out his appraisal of world music-what it is, what it has come to mean, and how the idea of multicultural and international sound has come to be perverted and distorted in the global marketplace of art and business. It is a powerful critique. It is all the more so since Byrne has been closely identified with world music, and he has been active in introducing American (meaning Western, parochial, and narrow-eared) audiences to the pleasures, nuances, and challenges of foreign and alternative music. In a similar vein, it might be regarded as strange for me to criticize international legal scholarship so openly since I have spent much of my professional life as a self-avowed academic, international lawyer, and advocate for the advancement of the role of international law in the United States. Teaching public international law has been central to my professional identity. But, just as David Byrne has become disenchanted with what world music has come to mean in the marketplace of sound, I have grown disillusioned with how the currency of international legal scholarship has come to be traded in the bazaar of ideas. This essay makes a very modest attempt to connect the problems of globalization in music with the internationalization of law. But, it also goes one step further to catalogue the pathologies-what I call here "the deadly sins"-that afflict current international legal scholarship as it struggles for a place in the legal academy, in the councils of power, and in the public square.