Sunday, May 22, 2005

Globalization and convergence in the international law community?

I was sitting through commencement at my law school today - congratulations to all the Washington College of Law graduates today and especially to all my students! - thinking a little bit about the claim by an increasing number of law schools in the United States to be "global law schools."

Partly it's a desire to jump on the bandwagon created by NYU law school, under the leadership of Professor Norman Dorsen, to create a global law faculty.

Partly it's an exercise in branding - globalization is a useful marketing slogan. That's true whether you are Pepsicola (although it helps if you don't deliberately spit in the eye of the sovereign state that makes possible your global hegemony, as Pepsi's president recently did at Columbia University in a commencement address, see controversy here) or whether you are a law school. After all, who wants to go to a law school that advertises itself as "parochial" or "narrow minded"?

Partly it's a business model - believing that a law school needs to tap into the global revenue stream, particularly as it both perceived as true and is true that educational quality at American law school's is higher than other places in the world, generally speaking.

Partly it's a strategy of high quality law schools - Duke, for example, in North Carolina or Washington University, in Missouri, or even Michigan - that are national in academic rank but regionally located - to make themselves relevant on the national stage by positioning themselves as "global" law schools, by hiring lots of European and other faculty internationally.

At bottom, it increasingly seems to me, this movement within law schools should be seen sociologically as an instance in the growth of the global bourgeosie - global elites of professionals in various fields, moving toward horizontal "global" connection - frequently with a corresponding disconnection, however, from the vertical relationships to their particular societies, nations, states, and even regions, that created them. Being bourgeois elites, they can't see that this is anything other than a good thing. I'll save for a later post why it has significant social downsides. (But I will suggest that this discussion about law school faculties unsurprisingly has cognates witht the argument over global elites and the use of global law in US constitutional adjudication, about which I have written much on this blog.)

More interesting to me, in connection with law school faculties, and was my topic of thought during part of commencement today, was whether the internationalization of law faculties - bringing in these global superstars, professors from the European Union, especially, to mingle with their international law colleagues in the United States, paradoxically produces greater homogenization of thought, intellectual work, academic work, rather than greater diversity. Apparently bringing together people from around the world, especially across the Atlantic divide, should increase the points of view, should increase the range of academic discussion, should increase the range of scholarly debate. But is this actually true? Suppose one were to figure out some clever way to analyze, for example, the intellectual output of the school most advanced in this regard, NYU law school - would one find that its massive increase in the number of foreign legal scholars had increased the range of its intellectual output, diversified it in any way?

Or, as an alternative hypothesis, might it turn out to have made it more homogenous - ever more brilliant restatements of conventional academic wisdom about international law? If you take seriously the idea that these globalization efforts by law schools are about the creation of a horizontally interlinked global bourgeoisie, one which is transgeographic and yet which shares significant intellectual and cultural assumptions, then globalizing the faculty might actually lead to less, not more, divergence of thought.

Calling Eric Posner: how do you devise an empirical measure of diversity of thought on international law topics by which to measure a faculty's output?

(Of course, this discussion also relates to the question of intellectual diversity on law faculties in the sense of liberal and conservative - the accepted, canonical position on law faculties is liberal internationalism, and the heterodox, particularly American counter-revolt is the movement to defend democratic sovereignty. These don't always and necessarily divide along liberal - conservative lines - e.g., a stalwart liberal such as Jeb Rubenfeld defending democratic sovereignty - but much of the time they do. Where at NYU does one find someone on the international law faculty willing to defend democratic sovereignty?)

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