This review essay examines three intellectual histories focused on fundamental transformations of international law in the early twentieth century. The transformations reflect power shifts in the international system, and the change from a colonial to a multilateral international legal order. I use the histories (authored by Juan Pablo Scarf, Arnulf Becker Lorca, and Oona Hathaway/Scott Shapiro) to investigate four fundamental issues of both historical and contemporary relevance.
1) How does one construct a global history of international law, and in particular how do intellectual histories help us understand international legal transformations?
2) How do legal scholars and communities of practice contribute to international legal change?
3) How is power encoded into international law?
4) Can great powers escape imperial dominance, or the charge that their actions and their invocations of international law are imperial?
In addition to critically engaging the three books, the essay also examines how contestation over international law by powerful and weaker actors is often overlooked, yet this contestation shapes international law’s trajectory.
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Alter: The Empire of International Law?
Karen J. Alter (Northwestern Univ. - Political Science) has posted The Empire of International Law? (American Journal of International Law, forthcoming). Here's the abstract: