Program for International Legal Studies Legal scholar: Regulatory power transforming international law

By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

According to a legal scholar, the "humanization of international law" since the 1950s that led to an emphasis on human rights is now being countered by a "regulatory turn" that is marking the enhancement of the regulatory power of governments in relation to the individual.

Law Professor Jacob Katz Cogan of the University of Cincinnati College of Law lectured on "The Regulatory Turn in International Law" and described how the relationship between state power and international law has shifted since the end of World War II.

Wayne State University Law School featured the talk on Wednesday, Feb. 22, as part of its continuing Winter 2012 Lecture Series.

Cogan earned his law degree from Yale Law School and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. After clerking in the U.S. Court of Appeals, he did a stint in the Office of the Legal Adviser of the U.S. State Department.

Cogan argues that, in the post-war era, governments have increased their focus on individuals and are less likely to defer to the wishes of other governments.

"There is a restructuring of power to and from the states and international institutions," Cogan said. "International control has, in some respects, replaced state control. And that shift, from national to the international, can threaten some state elites. But it empowers international institutions and their secretariats. It also empowers some domestic institutions, especially executive branches of some countries that exert considerable influence over international organizations. "

This effect, he argues, has significantly changed the landscape of international law.

As he said in his article on the subject in the Harvard International Law Journal in 2011, "The regulatory turn represents a fundamental challenge to the assumptions and dynamics of traditional international law. While once the international system shied away from acting directly on individuals, it now asserts such authority with regularity through the articulation of rules and the adoption of decisions. And while once international law deferred to states ... it now often eschews state discretion and instead dictates with increasing specificity the provisions to be adopted at the national and sub-national levels."

Published: Fri, Feb 24, 2012


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