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Part I Histories, Ch.10 Hans Kelsen and the Return of Universalism

Jochen von Bernstorff

From: The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law

Edited By: Anne Orford, Florian Hoffmann

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 13 June 2024

Responsibility of international organizations — Customary international law — General principles of international law — Sources of international law

This chapter illustrates the deep structure of the Kelsenian approach to international law from an intellectual history perspective. Hans Kelsen (1881–1973) was a Viennese law professor in between the two world wars, who is seen by many as one of the most outstanding, if not the most outstanding, jurist of the twentieth century. Therefore studying the Kelsenian approach includes the political, doctrinal, and philosophical context in which Kelsen developed his fundamental critique of the then-prevailing German international law theory. Furthermore, the chapter reveals the subversive and revolutionary force of Kelsen’s critical methodology with a couple of examples, concluding with a few words on how German international legal scholarship dealt with Kelsen’s legacy after the Second World War.

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