Indian Journal of International Law

, Volume 58, Issue 3–4, pp 235–264 | Cite as

Description without apology? On structures, signs and subjectivity in international legal scholarship

  • John R. MorssEmail author


In this examination of the state of the art in the methodology of international legal scholarship, attention is focused on the role of explanation and of description. Explanatory claims couched in terms of structure, of signs and of ‘the Other’, and of individual subjectivity, are interrogated. In contemporary international jurisprudence explanations in terms of structure, sign and subjectivity are typically applied eclectically and in amalgamation with sociological and historical explanations. Questionable claims are made concerning the revelation of hidden truths and speculative narratives of origins and development. Koskenniemi’s contribution to these debates is not so much a structuralist exercise revelatory of deep processes, but rather a strategic deployment of rhetorical technique. Ways forward include attending to Orford’s advocacy of description as against explanation in international legal scholarship.


Post-structuralism Sign Other Explanation Description 

Copyright information

© The Indian Society of International Law 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deakin Law SchoolBurwoodAustralia

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