I am not talking about listening to Jazz when you are reading, writing, or even doing international law. That is not why we are here now. What I am conveying is that international law resembles it more like Jazz. So if you want to understand international law as a complex system, start to think of it like a fine piece of Jazz, where there are solos, where there is also a degree of structure and a degree of chaos.
Jazz can be seen between order and chaos, and international law can behave in the same way. There is a degree of order of patterns, but also there is a degree of “surprises.” So, where can we find order, jaggedness, or unpredictability in international law?
On one side, we can find a degree of order thanks to the sources of international law. Such sources, on one side also help as a memory of the system, or at least, this is my contention, the sources of international law serve not only to give structure but also to give a degree of memory, so any newcomer to the system, that is, any type of agent playing the game of international law, will look upon those sources and will find reliable patterns, which will possibly dictate the pattern to behave.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have a degree of spontaneity or surprises, and also this is because there is not a strict rule of precedence, the case law can change how a given term is understood under specific parameters, and there is a degree of flexibility in the interpretation of a given term under a possible dispute, which allows the system to continue moving.
Life is like Jazz, and sometimes you go on various solos. And to give some sort of inspiration, by the suggestion of Neil Johnson in his book Simply complexity, you can hear the Brecker Brothers and the album Heavy Metal Bebop, or if you want something less intense Phil Woods on Just The Way You Are.
Those solos can be seen as the courts’ and tribunals’ decisions on a given dispute, sometimes, they maintain how things must be understood, but some other times, the interpretation of given terms seems to change.
Such change is not only circumscribed to dispute settlement but is an example.