The Problematic Concept of the International Legal Official

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The concept of the ‘legal official’ is one of the most under-theorised yet critical explanatory elements of modern analytical jurisprudence. However, it is also a term beset by conceptual uncertainty and functional ambiguity. In fact, as commonly employed by analytical theorists, it seems to function merely as a boot-strapping device, relinquishing the need to justify the kind of pre-legal hierarchy or constitutional authority commonly found at the state level. This reliance on officialdom is particularly problematic bearing in mind that the lack of any such hierarchies at the international level has been the cause of constant scepticism as to the reality and efficacy of international law as a legal system. Recognising the specific functional benefits which officials bring to the task of law within the state, however, offers up two methodological conclusions: first, that the theorist cannot simply presume, a priori, that legal officials are necessary without a coherent normative defence of the perceived functions of law upon which this justification stands; and secondly, that any view of law's function and important institutional features must still be informed by a more genuinely global empiricism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-634
Number of pages27
JournalTransnational Legal Theory
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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