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A Path Already Travelled in Domestic Orders? From Fragmentation to Constitutionalisation in the Global Legal Order

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Colin MurrayORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Cambridge University Press, 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Theories of fragmentation and constitutionalisation have long been presented as antagonistic accounts of the global legal order. Fragmentation theorists posit a non-hierarchical order explained in terms of the relationships between general and specialised areas of international law. Constitutionalisation’s adherents, by contrast, identify the global legal order’s ongoing transformation from horizontal and consent-based roots towards a hierarchal structure grounded upon fundamental principles. The proliferation of international tribunals has long been recognised as a factor muddying the picture of constitutionalisation and pointing towards fragmentation within international law. We argue, however, that this proliferation enhances the global order’s potential for constitutionalisation. The current state of fragmentation within the uncodified global order is comparable to long periods when the UK’s uncodified constitution exhibited the hallmarks of fragmented development. We bridge these supposedly rival explanations for the development of legal orders by re-evaluating the role played by competing courts in the UK’s constitutionalisation process, reassessing developments familiar to common-law historians through the prism of fragmentation theory. The UK example indicates that fragmentation is not, of itself, an insurmountable obstacle to constitutionalisation within the global order and may even mark a stage within this process. We employ lessons derived from this comparison to evaluate current flashpoints in relations between international tribunals, including the European Court of Justice’s Opinion 2/13 which has for now stymied the European Union’s efforts to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights. Global Constitutionalisation – UK Constitutionalisation – Fragmentation – Proliferation of Courts – Opinion 2/13

Publication metadata

Author(s): Murray C, O'Donoghue A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Law in Context

Year: 2017

Volume: 13

Issue: 3

Pages: 225-252

Print publication date: 01/09/2017

Online publication date: 24/04/2017

Acceptance date: 11/11/2016

Date deposited: 11/11/2016

ISSN (print): 1744-5523

ISSN (electronic): 1744-5531

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S1744552317000064


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