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Principled Monism and the Normative Conception of Coercion under International Law Print
Brown Bag Seminar, Speaker: Professor George Pavlakos, University of Antwerp, Belgium
8 June 2009, 12.15-13.45, Anna Nussbaum Auditorium, World Trade Institute, Berne




In his Brown Bag lecture, Prof. Pavlakos will address the role of moral principles in the fragmented global legal order. The global legal order presents itself as a messy interplay of values. While lawyers generally tend to think in formal lines, such as that international law should trump national law or a more specific norm trumps an earlier or more general norm, one can observe that checks and balances are exerted at all levels of governance to watch over the observation of basic moral principles to compensate for the absence of a single global legislator or judiciary caring for them.

Thus, at the international level, one can observe rather a ‘competition of values’ than a ‘hierarchy of norms’. Prof. Pavlakos therefore advocates a form of ‘principled monism’ instead of an ‘international law monism’, and holds that for any instance of coercion, be it at the national or international level, to be permissible, it ought to be regulated by sound legal principles of value. Even if these principles derive from formally inferior legal orders, they ought to control and account for the coercion exercised by international law. This theory could have as a consequence that states could red-card decisions from international arbitration if they hold that basic principles not to be sufficiently observed. Should this be admitted? If yes, on which basis? Could ‘principled monism’ be a baseline for ‘legitimate protectionism’?

The Brown Bag will raise questions of law and formality, of validity, of the possibility and desirability to regulate international relations and the admissibility of protecting ‘important values’. We would be happy to welcome many voices from all political and social science, economics and law directions to discuss those questions of our time.



Prof. Pavlakos is a Research Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Antwerp and a Member of the Executive Committee of the Centre for Law and Cosmopolitan Values at the University of Antwerp.  He studied Law in Athens and Edinburgh and was an Alexander von Humboldt research fellow and visiting lecturer at the chair for Public Law and Legal Theory at the University of Kiel in Germany, where he worked with Prof. Robert Alexy, one of the important contemporary legal theorists regarding principle legal theory. Professor Pavlakos is currently working on a research project entitled “the constitution of globalisation”. The project concentrates on principles of political morality for global governance by combining legal constitutional doctrine with legal theory.



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