University of St.Gallen
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Concurrent Jurisdictions

abstract One of the most persistent challenges to the study of international politics today is to cope analytically with a state of affairs in which power and authority are spread across multiple layers and sites of societal organization. Traditionally, the capacity to exercise control over persons and property within a demarcated territory was the essence of statehood. The exercise of control over territory implies a monopoly of power in the setting, sanctioning and enforcement of the rule of law. With the concentration of these functions of governance into territorially distinct units, state jurisdiction became the central concept underpinning the spatio-political organization of society.

History tells us however that the ideal-type system of sovereign states with ultimate territorial jurisdiction has emerged in a specific historic constellation characterized by overlapping and incomplete rights of clerical and secular institutions. Today however, the central properties that made states the superior form of political organization between the 17th and the 20th centuries are under siege. In particular, the exclusivity and scope of state competences has been challenged as other loci of power begin asserting the jurisdiction to set, sanction and enforce rules beyond, below and beside those of the state. Both territoriality as the coincidence of an exclusive policy domain within demarcated borders and the traditional concentration of governance functions within the state have begun to unravel. As a consequence, there are multiple linkages between public and private activities linking the national, international and transnational levels that contribute to dynamic and complex governance arrangements.

To capture the dynamics that result from multiple linkages between different contributions to international governance, the project elaborates on the concept of concurrent jurisdictions. Jurisdiction, in the present context, disaggregates the notion of governance into three dimensions: the setting, the sanctioning and the enforcement of rules. Accustomed to a state-centered ontology, we are inclined to think of the three dimensions basically as being ingrained into one single organizational format, i.e. the state as a multifaceted and multipurpose organization. However, this is not necessarily the case. Rather, the assertion of the competence to prescribe, sanction or enforce can be assembled or linked together by different formal organizations and informal arrangements at different levels of social aggregation.

The idea of concurrence takes seriously the changes in the international systems. It accepts that states, international regimes, international organizations, international courts and private transnational actors may assert one or more dimensions of jurisdiction. As these assertions emerge without any master plan or overarching ordering, considerable overlap and potential conflicts seem unavoidable. As a consequence, the concept of concurrence views a large portion of cross-border economic transactions as characterized by simultaneous claims of authority to set and to enforce rules in specific realms. A basic assumption of this paper is that assertions of competences to set and enforce rules and norms may co-exist. The co-existence of different assertions exerted by a variety of actors at different levels contributes to the co-evolution of different assertions of jurisdiction, which in turn gives international governance a dynamic character. This dynamic character is at odds with static, snapshot-style interpretations that describe the current state of international affairs in terms of a final status.

As such, the concept of concurrent jurisdiction provides a fresh look at a very broad research agenda, comprising not only political scientists but also economists and legal scholars. For instance, the increasing literature on regime overlap or regime complexes in political science finds expression in the concern of legal scholars with the fragmentation of international law and the economists' interest in the compatibility of bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements. Also, the concept allows first for linking a diversity of so far unrelated individual case studies and in so doing for identifying specific conditions underlying patterns of actor behaviour. For instance, we might be able to identify certain structural features of the international regulatory landscape such as the quasi-hierarchical embedding of rules less prone to forum-shopping activities than others.
keywords Jurisdiction
type other project type
status ongoing
start of project 2010
end of project 2011
additional informations
topics international affairs in terms
methods research
contact Cornelia Kappeler