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date: 03 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter is concerned with international law’s claim to legitimate authority and the role played by the doctrine of sources in meeting this claim. It argues that the kind of formal assessment of legality inherent in sources doctrine expresses a specific view of the legitimate authority of international law. Here, the chapter tries to defuse two misleading lines of attack: one based on the vagaries of the processes of customary law formation and ascertainment and the other based upon the exhaustiveness of sources doctrine as traditionally conceived. As this chapter shows, both criticisms miss their target by overplaying what is at stake in this view of international law’s legitimate authority. Whilst the chapter therefore defends this ‘doctrinal’ view, it nonetheless shows how a broader theory of the legitimacy of international law will necessarily have to balance content-dependent and content-independent normative evaluation.

Keywords: Customary international law, General principles of international law, Sources of international law

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