Public international law has been ‘global’ in its application since at least the 1960s, when most western colonial empires had disappeared. Still, it is far from being left untouched by the fundamental changes which law is undergoing worldwide and which scholars often catch under the term ‘globalization’. The gradual decline of the monopoly of states in the field of international relations and the on-going globalization of the economy and the challenges mankind is facing threaten the autonomy of public international law and even stretch it to its vanishing point. The authors argue that while international lawyers should not react defensively, we should be even more careful not to sacrifice the central position of the state in international law too readily as it is the prime locus of democracy and the rule of law. They also plead for a shift in international legal academia from the traditional focus on the formal role of international law within the system of law and global governance to studying its societal impact and potential in facing global challenges.