Conflicting Norms, Values, and Interests: A Perspective from Legal Academia

| March 2019
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Abstract: The analytical tension between legal norms, moral values, and national interests seems no uncharted territory in political science, but has found very little interest in legal academia. For lawyers, moral values and national interests are largely “unknowns,” dealt with by other disciplines. Looking a bit deeper, the picture becomes more nuanced, however. As part of a roundtable on “Balancing Legal Norms, Moral Values, and National Interests,” this essay argues that norms, values, and interests are not different universes of legal normativity, morality, and specific interests, but are interrelated concepts. Values clearly influence norms and often underpin them, while seemingly concrete norms (rules) are themselves often fragile constructs trying to balance competing interests. Value systems are quite diverse within societies, and this is even truer for interests; each society is a dynamic system of social interaction where conflicting interests are constantly playing out. In a way, underlying conflicts of values and interests are constantly being renegotiated in the legal system, with the norms enshrined in the text of statutes and treaties serving to constitute transitory reference points.

Keywords: legal norms, moral values, national interests, legal academia, constructivism


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Category: Issue 33.1, Roundtable: Balancing Norms, Values, and Interests

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