Fragmentation in International Law and Global Governance

A Conceptual Inquiry

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
Timo Pankakoski University of Turku

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Antto Vihma Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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This article examines the concept and metaphor of fragmentation and its underlying assumptions in international law and global governance. After engaging with fragmentation historically, we analyze current debates through five conceptual perspectives. Fragmentation is often perceived as a process, a gradation, a process with a single direction, a prognosis, and normatively as either loss or liberation. These interlinked tendencies carry conceptual implications, such as making fragmentation apparently inevitable or provoking positive revaluations of fragmentation in terms of differentiation. Furthermore, the conceptual coupling of fragmentation with modernity enhances these effects with an historical thesis. Consequently,fragmentation appears as a ubiquitous and necessary, rather than contingent, feature of modern law—a conceptual implication that may hinder empirical work, and that merits critical analysis.

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