How Interpretation Makes International Law: On Semantic Change and Normative Twists

Paperback | April 9, 2014

byIngo Venzke

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Challenging the classic narrative that sovereign states make the law that constrains them, this book argues that treaties and other sources of international law form only the starting point of legal authority. Interpretation can shift the meaning of texts and, in its own way, make law. In thepractice of interpretation actors debate the meaning of the written and customary laws, and so contribute to the making of new law. In such cases it is the actor's semantic authority that is key - the capacity for their interpretation to be accepted and become established as new reference points forlegal discourse. The book identifies the practice of interpretation as a significant space for international lawmaking, using the key examples of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Appellate Body of the WTO to show how international institutions are able to shape and develop theirconstituent instruments by adding layers of interpretation, and moving the terms of discourse.The book applies developments in linguistics to the practice of international legal interpretation, building on semantic pragmatism to overcome traditional explanations of lawmaking and to offer a fresh account of how the practice of interpretation makes international law. It discusses the normativeimplications that arise from viewing interpretation in this light, and the implications that the importance of semantic changes has for understanding the development of international law. The book tests the potential of international law and its doctrine to respond to semantic change, and ultimatelyponders how semantic authority can be justified democratically in a normative pluriverse.

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Challenging the classic narrative that sovereign states make the law that constrains them, this book argues that treaties and other sources of international law form only the starting point of legal authority. Interpretation can shift the meaning of texts and, in its own way, make law. In thepractice of interpretation actors debate the...

Ingo Venzke is a Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Amsterdam Center for International Law, University of Amsterdam. He completed his doctorate in law at the University of Frankfurt while working at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg where he co-directed a research project on the e...

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Kobo ebook|Aug 11 2016

$28.29 online$36.75list price(save 23%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:344 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.07 inPublished:April 9, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198712979

ISBN - 13:9780198712978

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Table of Contents

1. In the Beginning was the Deed2. The Practice of Interpretation: A Theoretical Perspective3. UNHCR and the Making of Refugee Law4. Adjudication in the GATT/WTO: Making General Exceptions in Trade Law5. Creative Interpretations: Normative Twists6. Epilogue: In the End there is Eternity

Editorial Reviews

"Ingo Venzke's book How Interpretation Makes International Law: On Semantic Change and Normative Twists tells a number of tortoise and hare tales with respect to the creation of international law. In these tales the hare is represented by a number of different concepts and actors: formalism,states, sovereignty and sources-centred theoretical accounts of international law and the classic understanding of pacta sunt servanda as the ultimate maxim of how international law comes into existence ... the tortoises in Venzke's thesis are portrayed by the theory of communicative action,jurisgenerative practice and the interpretive acts of international administrations and other participants in international legal relations. Venzke's book is a significant step in providing a concrete theoretical framework for the analysis of how tortoises run. They run in many ways, but a verysignificant one is interpretation." --Maria Panezi, Transnational Legal Theory