Alix Toublanc


The perspectives of French lawyers concerning international law and international institutions are formed largely by the basic course in public international law that they took as law students. Students in the course attend formal lectures by the professor (cours magistraux) and often supplementary section meetings, or tutorials, with instructors (travaux diriges), as well as read all or part of a basic textbook (manuel) in public international law and other assigned materials. One way to gain insight into the fundamental ways of thinking about international law of French lawyers and law-trained officials is to take a close look at the manuels that they studied as law students. Are these manuels narrow and technically focused, limiting inquiry to the text of treaties and other authoritative sources of international law? Or are they broad-ranging and policy-oriented, opening avenues to consideration of a wide variety of factors? Do they advocate and employ methods which privilege logical and deductive reasoning for arriving at solutions to legal problems? Or do they direct attention to analysis that looks also to the purpose of rules? Do they present international law from a policy-neutral perspective? Or do they engage in judgments about existing rules or suggest the development of new rules? Do they conceive international law as state-centered? Or do they see it rather from a "world community" perspective? These are some of the questions which will be addressed in this article. Presenting French textbooks to the American internationalist public logically leads one to try to explain how they differ from the casebooks used by American law students. This, however, raises a further, implicit question: whether there is sufficient unity in French doctrine to justify a presentation of the underlying spirit of French textbooks as a whole. The first question is relatively easy to answer because there are clear differences in the form of French manuels and American casebooks: French textbooks are almost always smaller in size than American casebooks. The main reason is that, as a general rule, they do not include the documents and annexes which appear in abundance in American casebooks, i.e., sizeable extracts from case law and the writings of scholars. In France, these are simply quoted and summarized by the author of the textbook because these sorts of documents are more often provided in handouts distributed to students to prepare tutorials rather than directly included in the textbooks themselves. The second point appears more difficult to resolve: is there sufficient substantive unity between these textbooks to justify presenting them as a whole and developing ''the" French concept of international law, which is probably what the American internationalist reading this review is hoping to find? Of course, there are many similarities, especially in the presentation of the subject in general. Each textbook commences with a more or less detailed study of the history of international law and a description of the various schools of thought. This is followed, although the order may vary, by a study of the relations between international and national law, sources, subjects, the application of international law in the international and national legal orders, the responsibility of states, the law of peace and international security, and the regime of international spaces, which is particularly developed in the Combacau-Sur textbook. However, the latter excludes economic questions relating to trade regulation, investment, and development law, whereas these matters are presented by Pierre-Marie Dupuy and amply developed in the Daillier-Pellet textbook. CombacauSur, Daillier-Pellet, and Pierre-Marie Dupuy also analyze questions relating to environmental law. Human rights, another sensitive subject of contemporary inter- national law, is discussed in all the textbooks, but particularly well developed in those of Pierre-Marie Dupuy and Daillier-Pellet. Nevertheless, making a list of the subjects common to all the authors clearly does not allow us to determine whether there is any unity of doctrine: a "French concept" of international law. The way in which these subjects are treated will be the determining factor. It is the doctrinal conclusions drawn by their authors from case law and practice that will reveal any unity or important variations in the principal French public international law textbooks. In fact, there are two main sorts of variation in French textbooks. They first become evident at an early stage, when the authors define the object of study and the methodology. Part I of this article will therefore address the questions of definition and methodology. Differences among French textbooks also result from more substantive theoretical disagreements concerning the nature and meaning of international law. These disagreements relate to differing views with respect to objectivism and voluntarism, which will be addressed in Part II of this article. Thus, although it will not be possible to present American readers with a unitary French concept of international law, they may, at least, be impressed by the richness and diversity of French doctrine.

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