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Competition and Cooperation in International Commercial Arbitration: The Birth of a Transnational Legal Profession

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)790-824
JournalLaw & society review
Issue number4
Early online date9 Nov 2017
Accepted/In press8 Jun 2017
E-pub ahead of print9 Nov 2017
PublishedDec 2017


King's Authors


This paper revisits the sociology of international commercial arbitration on the basis of unexploited archives and data. This material casts new light on the competition between “grand old men” and “young technocrats” in the 1980s and 1990s, a theme that has structured the analysis of international commercial arbitration since the pioneering work of Yves Dezalay and Bryant G. Garth (Dealing in Virtue). In contrast, the data show that the crucial transformative period actually took place between the 1950s and 1970s, when a relatively well‐defined group of individuals emerged as the leading arbitrators at the International Chamber of Commerce. These individuals— the “secant marginals”—succeeded in constructing a cooperative interface (rather than competition) between otherwise separate legal systems and professions. In doing so, they created the conditions necessary for the emergence of a new transnational legal profession. At a more general level, the article proposes an alternative narrative of globalization, wherein actors operating at the intersection of various systems, create new arenas of governance on the basis of inter‐system cooperation.

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