in: European journal of international law, Volume 31, Issue 2, p. 583-600
Louis Sohn was an émigré scholar who fled Poland for the USA in 1939, two weeks before the Nazis invaded. His most widely known work is World Peace through World Law, co-written with Grenville Clark, a vision for a reconstructed United Nations. Writing at a time when political realism was ascendant in the USA, Sohn was labeled an 'idealist'. Yet a strain of pragmatism also runs through his scholarship, leading many to praise him as one of the architects of modern international law. As a scholar-practitioner with a mission to help build the post-World War II international order, little overt legal theorizing appears in his work. But a close reading reveals ideas that drew implicitly on extant theory or were developed by later theorists without reference to Sohn's writing. To help frame the analysis, this article situates Sohn's writing in two strands of theoretical literature: pre-positivist, positivist and 'post-positivist' approaches to law-making by international organizations; and functionalist, constitutionalist and deliberative approaches to the powers of, and constraints on, those organizations. Sohn does not fall neatly into any of those categories; instead, fragments of his work can be found at many points along each spectrum. While the fragments do not add up to a coherent whole, the theoretical contributions of this 'pragmatic idealist' are greater than meets the eye.