Empirical Work in Human Rights

Steven R. Ratner, University of Michigan Law School

Wants links for full-text to go via SSRN


International law's relationship with empirical scholarship and studies is fraught with contradictions. On the one hand, as lawyers we know that our discipline is located within the social sciences. We thus crave the real world. Indeed, one of our core missions is to envisage and design a world order based on increased respect for norms. The unique organization of our field and our Society, encompassing both academic and practicing international lawyers—of which the former is only the minority—encourages cross-fertilization of ideas between the scholarly and the empirical. In addition, in discerning the content of international law, all lawyers inevitably rely on empirical work. How else, for instance, can we know whether a course of conduct truly rises to the level of state practice and opinio juris?