Monday, May 23, 2011

Transnational Law: An Essay in Definition with a Polemic Addendum

I have published an article with the Libertarian Alliance (London, U.K.). The paper is "Transnational Law: An Essay in Definition with a Polemic Addendum," Occasional Paper of the Libertarian Alliance, Legal Notes No. 52 (2011). The paper relies heavily on literary theory & criticism to make points about transnational and polycentric law. The paper is available here. (You may also download a version here at SSRN.) Below I've pasted an abstract.

What is transnational law? Various procedures and theories have emanated from this slippery signifier, but in general academics and legal practitioners who use the term have settled on certain common meanings for it. My purpose in this article is not to disrupt but to clarify these meanings by turning to literary theory and criticism that regularly address transnationality. Cultural and postcolonial studies are the particular strains of literary theory and criticism to which I will attend. To review “transnational law,” examining its literary inertia and significations, is the objective of this article, which does not purport to settle the matter of denotation. Rather, this article is an essay in definition, a quest for etymological precision. Its take on transnationalism will rely not so much on works of literature (novels, plays, poems, drama, and so forth) but on works of literary theory and criticism. It will reference literary critics as wide-ranging as George Orwell, Kenneth Burke, and Edward Said. It will explore the “trans” prefix as a supplantation of the “post” prefix. The first section of this article, “Nationalism,” will examine the concept of nationalism that transnationalism replaced. A proper understanding of transnational law is not possible without a look at its most prominent antecedent. The first section, then, will not explore what transnationalism is; it will explore what transnationalism is not. The second section, “Transnationalism,” will piece together the assemblages of thought comprising transnationalist studies. This section will then narrow the subject of transnationalism to transnational law. Here I will attempt to squeeze several broad themes and ideals into comprehensible explanations, hopefully without oversimplifying; here also I will tighten our understanding of transitional law into something of a definition. Having tentatively defined transnational law, I will, in section three, “Against the New Imperialism,” address some critiques of capitalism by those cultural critics who celebrate the transnational turn in global law and politics. Although I share these critics’ enthusiasm for transnational law, I see capitalism - another hazy construct that will require further clarification - as a good thing, not as a repressive ideology that serves the wants and needs of the hegemonic or elite.

1 comment:

  1. I wrote a short piece for the newsletter of theInternational Society for the Study of Time on the differences among interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity. It is unfortunately no longer available online, but the gist was this:

    multi- simply means that the different disciplines are used, but there is nothing connecting them. Most people who call themselves interdisciplinarians are actually multidisciplinarians.

    trans- means that there is a single theory through which everything else is interpreted. Marxism is such a transdisciplinary theory, applied to interpreting the sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities.

    inter- means that one investigates the various disciplines to understand how they are all deeply interconnected. Using those models (among them, information theory, systems theory, emergence, etc.), one can then understand the patterns of the world, whether nature or the social world.

    Considering this, what is the overriding theory of trans-nationalism?