Legalization Beyond the Nation State


Subject Matter

The research unit, “Transnational Conflicts and International Institutions” (TKI) in conjunction with other research units and projects contributes to the joint undertaking, “Legalization beyond the Nation State,” of the newly established Center for the Rule of Law at the Social Science Research Center Berlin. Within the TKI research unit, the conditions for the emergence of an international rule of law, and the consequences of increased legalization for effective and legitimate governing beyond the nation state are investigated. Preliminary comparative research on compliance with legal norms in the Federal Republic of Germany, the European Union, and the World Trade Organization already indicates that a nation state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for effective compliance with law. The TKI research unit, while continuing to investigate the preconditions for an effective international rule of law, also puts a stronger emphasis and more determined focus on the consequences of this development.

An important aspect of this is the accompanying concentration of power on the international level: Does the increased delegation of decisions to international courts create new centers of decision making with supranational characteristics and, if so, what determines the behavior of these new bodies? How do states and international institutions react to increasing conflicts between the different parts of international law and among international tribunals, and do these reactions lead to an emerging hierarchy within international law? The case of the World Trade Organization (PhD project, Tim Gemkow) is an area of special focus here. The TKI research unit also examines whether increased rule of law leads to greater demands for democratic legitimacy of international legal norms — in particular, it is concerned with the extent to which the increased precision and obligation of international law lead to increased demands by societal actors to participate in the norm-setting process.

The TKI research unit will also explore the interaction between national and international developments concerning the rule of law. We are currently planning a joint project with the Hague Institute of International Law, to investigate how international organizations’ strategies to develop national-level rule of law influence the organizations themselves and their relationship to rule-of-law principles at international level. A further research project on “‘Private’ Engagement and Public Interest in Transnational Contexts – The ‘World Citizen’ as a Political Actor?” (Tine Stein) will explore the legal function of individuals beyond the nation state. Preliminary research already indicates that there is an increasingly significant role for private individuals in the traditionally state-centered public international legal framework.

Relationship to the Research Unit’s Research Program

The increased legalization of international relations and the transfer of decision making to international adjudicatory bodies form an important part of the overall and growing tendency towards supranationalization outlined in thesis 1 of the research unit’s program. Increased demands from societal actors for greater involvement in lawmaking, in turn, are an essential element of the politicization of international institutions (thesis 2).

Main content

Selected Publications

Gemkow, Tim 2008: Verrechtlichung und Legitimität in der Welthandelsorganisation. Die multilateralen Handelsbeziehungen zwischen Konstitutionalisierung und Krise. Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 89 pages.

Stein, Tine 2008: Welt. Bürger. Recht. Bürger und Recht jenseits des Nationalstaates, in: Kommune, 26 (2), pp. 77-82.

Zürn, Michael und Joerges, Christian (eds.) 2005, Law and Governance in Postnational Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 297 pages.

Zürn, Michael und Zangl, Bernhard (eds.) 2004, Verrechtlichung – Baustein für Global Governance? Bonn: Dietz Verlag, 267 pages.