Chicago Journal of International Law

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This Essay elaborates in three ways the call for a renewal of social science approaches to international law advanced by Daniel Abebe, Adam Chilton, and Tom Ginsburg. First, while we affirm the importance of what they call the “scientific method” of hypothesis testing, we argue that it can and must be complemented by several other well-institutionalized social science approaches to international law. Second, we loosen the conventional “internal”/“external” distinction in legal scholarship and make the case that conceptualization and empirics are integral to both approaches. Third, we propose that the full promise of social science approaches to international law can only be realized when the international is held in dynamic and temporal tension with the national and local. Expanding scholarship on transnational legal orders and ordering brings theory and research on international law (including conventional “internal” approaches) into productive engagement with growing bodies of socio-legal research and scholarship (the so-called “external” view), with mutual benefits for both. The Essay illustrates the promise of the transnational legal order framework with two illustrations, one from international trade law through the World Trade Organization and the other from international commercial law created and promulgated by United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

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