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Is International Law International?

“I enjoyed reading this book tremendously and have kept coming back to the staggering view of the international law world it offers over again. I am very serious when I say that nothing in the field will be quite the same after this book has been published. It is such an eye-opener.” – Martti Koskenniemi, Professor of International Law (University of Helsinki), and Director, Erik Castrén Institute of International law and Human Rights

“According to a common stereotype, international lawyers are cosmopolitans. In this truly remarkable inquiry, Anthea Roberts shows that their cosmopolitanism remains hostage to a world of nation-states. For Americans in particular, it is disturbing to learn how international law in their country remains parochial. International lawyers across the spectrum in the United States emerge from a particular intellectual sociology, from their professionalization in their practice, even when they speak in a universalist voice – in the languages they (do not) learn, to the textbooks they use, and from the foreign affairs and national security law from which they approach the field, to the concrete positions on matters such as humanitarian intervention they take. Roberts has written a masterpiece.” – Samuel Moyn, Professor of Law, Yale Law School

“This book is a must-read for every international lawyer and negotiator. It thoroughly deconstructs the notion that there is a uniform college of international lawyers who all think alike. It helps us to reflect on our own background and the frame within which we think, and to also recognize and understand the ‘others.’ This is of utmost importance at a time when international legal cooperation is threatened.” –Anne van Aaken, Professor for Law and Economics, Legal Theory, Public International Law, and European Law, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland

“Asking the disarming question of whether ‘international law is international,’ Anthea Roberts takes readers on an ingenious tour of the global flow of people and ideas in international law, the role of nationalism and transnational hierarchies in creating unequal and ‘divisible colleges,’ and the implications for foreign policy and for the future of international law. The book is built on painstaking research into the educational background of international law scholars, where they publish and in what languages, how international law casebooks and treatises differ both within the ‘west’ and from the materials in China and Russia. It is a stellar contribution to international law, the study of globalization and legal education, comparative law, international relations, and the sociology of legal knowledge.” – Bryant Garth, Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Co-Director, Center for Empirical Research on the Legal Profession, University of California, Irvine School of Law, United States

“Roberts has raised a fundamental issue that both international lawyers and decision-makers cannot afford to ignore in this era of shifting power. This issue is whether international law is ‘international,’ as people might have taken for granted for decades or centuries, and how the ‘international’ is likely to evolve with the rise of new great powers, like China. Her perspective is absolutely unique. Textbooks and casebooks, educational backgrounds, academic publications, and connections to practice – factors that have a significant influence on how international lawyers construct their understanding of the field but whose importance are often overlooked – are painstakingly collected, well-organized and cogently analyzed to support her arguments. What Roberts exhibits, through this book, is not only the strength of her academic insight but her ability to recognize and understand the perspectives of others.” – Cai Congyan, Professor of international law of Xiamen University School of Law

“The results of Anthea Roberts’s investigation sound an alarm for all stakeholders in the field of International Law: the author calls on all of us to recognize the necessity of tearing down the mask of ‘internationality’ from the discipline in its current state and paves the way for changes towards a truly international International Law. Thoughtful and inspiring.” – Vera Rusinova, Professor of the Chair for Public and Private International Law, National Research University, The Higher School of Economics, Russia

“Roberts’s groundbreaking study brings important and new insights into the sociology of the production of international law. It charts the regional and cultural islands that dot this supposedly cosmopolitan sea and provides a deep critique of the field’s universalist aspirations/pretensions. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the international law project, whether working from the inside or as an external observer.”- Paul Stephan, John C. Jeffries, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law, United States

“For a French international lawyer who by necessity has to work in (at least) two languages and navigate different cultural universes, there is no doubt that international law is indeed international, as a crucible of diverse legal cultures. Yet, as Anthea Roberts’s (both intrepid and convincing) book demonstrates, in fact international law needs to be more international and less imperialist in the ways it is formed, practiced and conceptualized. From that perspective, Roberts’s invigorating analysis of national approaches to international law provides a salutary reappraisal of the law of nations that will no doubt frame the field in the future.” – Mathias Forteau, Professor of Public Law, University of Paris Ouest, Nanterre La Défense, France

“International law is full of myths. One of these is the global, universal character of the discipline that distances it from narrow national interests and mindsets. Anthea Roberts’s book investigates this myth in depth and shows how, contrary to the self-depiction of much of the discipline, international legal scholarship differs heavily across countries, is shaped by national traditions and institutional structures, and often follows patterns of dominance in the international system. This is a major achievement that should lead us to ask major questions about international law in a different light. Perhaps the most pressing of these – is international law distinct from international politics, and how? – will now have to be tackled in a far more nuanced way. Thinking about international law will never be quite the same again.” – Nico Krisch, Professor of International Law, the Graduate Institute Geneva, Switzerland

“Anthea Roberts’s book has the potential of re-defining how we think about international law and its realities, both beyond and within the West. It shows us the field of international law in a new light and will open new directions for international legal research in the coming decades.” – Lauri Mälksoo, Professor of International Law at the University of Tartu, Estonia and the author of Russian Approaches to International Law (OUP 2015)

“Anthea Roberts’s book can be compared to a high-quality aerial picture of national and regional international law academias that live on the same planet as neighbours, but barely acknowledge each other’s existence and language. A product of excellent research and very thoughtful observation, the book speaks of differences, yet one of its aftertastes is a sudden sense of how similar all the nationalized approaches are in their parochiality. Roberts destroys the myth of universality only to open a way to genuine understanding of similarities in each other.” – Maria Issaeva, Managing Partner, Threefold Legal Advisors, Russia

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