Chicago Journal of International Law

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The social science approach has already contributed and continues to contribute to the study of international law. In particular, research that incorporates the social science approach has provided much insight into reality and day-to-day functioning of international law by going beyond historical and normative description and providing generalizable theories. If based on a sound theoretical framework that is subsequently tested in a rigorous scientific manner, the social science approach allows us to uncover a multiplicity of factors that commingle to shape states’ preferences and actions toward international law. Combining insights provided by analysis of large-N data with qualitative methodology allows for contextualization of the general statistical patterns in the context of specific actors and specific issue areas. In particular, the social science approach elucidates the inherently comparative nature of international law by explaining the nexus between international and domestic legal traditions. In this Essay, I advocate for the use of the social science approach in the study of international law. I use the example of comparative international law—specifically, Islamic law states’ views of the global order—to illustrate the benefits and insights that social science methodology can provide

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