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What Is Transnational Law?


Roger Cotterrell is Anniversary Professor of Legal Theory at Queen Mary, University of London. I am grateful to Paul Schiff Berman for valuable comments on a draft of this article, and to participants in discussion of an earlier paper on related themes that I presented at the Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference at the University of Sussex in April 2011. The author may be contacted at Department of Law, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK. Tel: (44) 20 7882 3946.


Is it important to conceptualize transnational law and “map” it as a new legal field? This article suggests that to do so might help both juristic practice and sociolegal scholarship in organizing, linking, and comparing disparate but increasingly significant types of regulation. To explore the idea of transnational law is to raise basic questions about the nature of both “law” and “society” (taken as the realm law regulates). This involves radically rethinking relationships between the public and the private, between law and state, and between different sources of law and legal authority. Taking as its focus Von Daniels's The Concept of Law from a Transnational Perspective and Calliess and Zumbansen's Rough Consensus and Running Code (both 2010), the article considers what approaches may be most productive, and what key issues need to be addressed, to make sense of broad trends in law's extension beyond the boundaries of nation-states.