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Law without Nations

by Austin Sarat Lawrence Douglas Martha Umphrey

As the editors (all of Amherst College) explain in their introduction, how one conceptualizes the idea of "law without nations" depends very much on how one theorizes "the nation." A Hobbesian view of the nation as the state suggests that there can be no such thing as "law without nations." The development of doctrines of international crimes such as genocide suggests that law can exist above and beyond the nation, however defined. Understanding "the nation" either in the sense of the German concept of "das Volk" or as an expression of social solidarity (without, necessarily, the exclusivist connotations of "das Volk") can lead to an understanding of the law as embodying and expressing "matters of tradition, affect, belief, and ultimate values," and thus "law without nations" suggests either an impossibility or the imposition of artificial legality from the outside. Finally, in liberal legality, which sees law as the creator of social solidarity and the vehicle for promoting social justice, "law without nations" can be understood as the culmination of the liberal ideal. It is the tensions between these different ways of understanding "law without nations" that animate the six essays presented here, which explore such specific topics as the legal relationship between the nation-state and a globalized world as pertaining to the punishment of crime and the waging of war; issues of comparative constitutionalism (the US Supreme Court citing decisions of foreign domestic national courts, for instance); the conceptual development of Jewish law in the absence of a state for the nation; the recent development of Islamic Sharia Law as a form of supranational legality arising out of the void of failing states; international law as a facilitator of ethnic displacement and exclusion; and law within a liberal multinational empire. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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