In a recent column, Jose Alvarez, President of the American Society of International Law, wonders whether Susanna Clarke's ivory tower magicians are at all comparable to legal academics, at least those engaged in international law. On the whole, he thinks not. "Our Society and our members, however “learned,” are inextricably engaged with the real world. Perhaps because international lawyers are still wrestling with an Austinian complex that demands constant affirmations of relevance, much of what we do as scholars tries to “engage” and virtually all that we do as a “learned” society aspires to connect to real lawyers and policy-makers." In his column, he goes on to discuss the work of his association's members, and concludes, "As Clarke’s novel itself suggests, there are risks when academics engage in the messy worlds of politics and policy. After all, her magicians’ services to politicians encompass acts that many would regard as highly questionable under modern international humanitarian law standards. And being a “pure” academic has its temptations (especially, but not only, if one’s expertise lies with the unreal, such as performing magic). But I am doubtful that is even possible, much less desirable, for international lawyers to remove themselves entirely from the real world. Disengagement is, I suspect, not an option for us. We will, I am sure, explore that issue at next year’s 102nd annual meeting, devoted to “The Politics of International Law.” For now, given the problems to which we can fruitfully apply our expertise, I am glad that most (if not all) of us regularly practice, and do not merely study, our “magic.” Read more here.