University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Postgraduate Course: Theories of the International Legal Order (LAWS11412)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course aims to provide students with an introduction to key positions and authors in the theory of international law. At the heart of the course is the question, what is the nature of the obligation created by international law and how do we understand its claim to authority? What are the foundations of the effectiveness ¿ if any ¿ of international law as a legal order? In attempting to answer these questions, we will examine works by, among others, Grotius, Vattel, Kelsen, Schmitt, Hart, Morgenthau, Koskenniemi and authors writing from within contemporary debates in international relations. Students doing the course will improve their literacy and their conceptual and analytical agility, and be encouraged to think about how these theoretical texts can (or cannot) shed light on specific problems in international law.
Course description The identity and nature of international law, the foundations of its obligatory quality, and the conditions of its effectiveness and utility, are theoretical problems which lie close to the surface of the international legal order. These theoretical problems have remained relatively stable but the ways in which we articulate them and answer them have changed a great deal. At the heart of any theory of international law are the questions: what is a universal legal order, and how and why does it bind? Closely related to how we answer the first question is the second: what can we hope for from the international legal order and what can it achieve?

The ways of answering these questions traverse political philosophy, theories of law and state, theories of individual and collective freedom, ideals of civilization, progress and empire, and theories of social scientific knowledge. In this course, we will engage deeply with some of the most influential attempts to answer this question, approach them in a diachronic manner from the late medieval through to the utterly contemporary. Students taking this course will read primary texts and in the process will learn both how to understand the argumentative architecture of these texts, and how to situate them within a wider political and social context. They will learn how to think with these arguments as well as against them, and be encouraged always to articulate their own assessment of the validity and value of the theoretical approach under consideration.

The student learning experience will be interactive and dialogical, premised on thorough preparation for class by all participants. Through class participation, students will appreciate the complexity and insights to be gathered from the texts, and learn how to read them accurately and insightfully. In the process, they will be able to situate the texts and arguments within the arc of a theory of international law and the history of international order, and thereby be better placed to consider how these theoretical insights can be used to think through contemporary questions and problems. Students will be evaluated though assigned reaction papers, which will be presented in class, and also through a final paper, which will develop their analytical and writing skills.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  25
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) * A written essay of a maximum of 4000 words (80% of the total mark) «br /»
* In-class participation in line with the School¿s marking scheme (20% of the total mark)
Feedback This module will focus on objectives that lie higher than ¿remembering¿ and ¿understanding¿ in the taxonomy of educational objectives (ANDERSON, L W, & KRATHWOHL D R (eds.) (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman). Accordingly, the feedback is designed to address in particular the students¿ skills relating to the understanding, analysis and the critical evaluation of the theories studied.

The highest score for in-class participation and the final paper and presentation is reserved only for students who demonstrate the ability to clearly understand the theories studied, and to critically evaluate and reflect on the application of those theories.

Likewise, the formative assessment will focus in particular on assessing the students¿ ability to read carefully and to articulate the arguments within and theory, and think through their application.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students taking this course will be able to identify and understand key theoretical positions in international legal theory and appreciate their historical context.
  2. Upon successful completion of the course, students will be accustomed to critically engage complex arguments and texts, to articulate clearly their premises and conclusions, and to reflect on the insights offered by such texts.
  3. Students will be equipped with an advanced capacity to think through the implications of these arguments and texts for contemporary questions in international law and politics, and to develop their own self-understanding about how they would answer the fundamental questions in the theory of international law.
  4. The observation of ongoing debates in the literature will enable students to assess new developments in the literature and to appreciate with greater insight the range of positions in contemporary debates about the nature of international law with a view to making judgments and forming opinions about these debates.
Reading List
Reading lists will be prepared each year to reflect contemporary developments but as a rule we will examine works by, among others, Grotius, Vattel, Kelsen, Schmitt, Hart, Morgenthau, Koskenniemi and authors writing from within contemporary debates in international relations.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Read and understand essential positions and texts in the theory of international law over the last 800 years:
This includes the ability to situate the theory within its broader context, and to appreciate the implications of the theory as a vision for legal, political and human ordering.

Critically evaluate complex texts by canonical authors:
This course will introduce students to a rigorous reading of complex texts and arguments. This will sharpen their abilities to deal with extended and challenging modes of argument and ideas and insights which may be unfamiliar to them. This will improve not only their knowledge of the field but also their agility in identifying arguments and kinds of theories, and in relating them and confronting these ideas with those from other theories in order to test their limits.

Think critically:
Besides understanding materials, students are trained to question received knowledge. This is based on the study of advanced commentaries and primary sources, and on the discussion with the colleagues and the lecturers.

Form personal views and share them with an audience:
In-class participation is designed to encourage the formulation of personal ideas. The discussion format will support and train students to confront and exchange ideas. Clarity and incisiveness are crucial to benefit fully from in-class discussion (oral communication) and fare well in the assessment (written communication).
KeywordsInternational Law,Legal Order,Contemporary,International Relations
Course organiserDr Michelle Burgis-Kasthala
Tel: (0131 6)50 2008
Course secretaryMr Kevin Duckworth
Tel: (0131 6)50 2002
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information