Decolonizing International Law: Development, Economic Growth and the Politics of Universality

DECOLONIZING INTERNATIONAL LAW: DEVELOPMENT, ECONOMIC GROWTH AND THE POLITICS OF UNIVERSALITY

U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 520

418 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2011 Last revised: 28 Jan 2011

Date Written: January 18, 2011

Abstract

International law has been subject to so much well-deserved criticism, and yet remains a compelling moral language for issues of global justice. It has an aspirational, or utopian dimension, in which law bears an enduring relation to an idea of justice. And yet attempts to call on the promise of international law have had the unintended consequence of legitimising an expanding domain of international intervention into the Third World. This thesis asks why this is so, taking seriously the idea that international law has both imperial and emancipatory tendencies. It offers a jurisprudential and political-economic account of what produces these qualities. Its central argument is that modern international law holds out a promise of universal applicability which has inspired attempts by the Third World to use international law as a site of political struggle. However, the concept of development and its relation to international law, has caused that universal promise to be subsumed within a claim to universality for particular forms of social, legal and economic ordering. That claim has not brought the promised transformation or 'development', but has instead produced within international law a project of violent transformation. This project has made the idea(l) of self government in the Third World illusory and vulnerable to capture by rent-seeking elites. The account offered here may assist those who use international law as a site of political struggle, whether by choice or necessity, to adopt strategies which minimise the imperial dimension of international law and emphasise its emancipatory tendency. It hopes to be a step in creating a praxis of decolonising international law. (It is a doctoral thesis. A version of this work is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press in 2011 under the same title.)

Keywords: International Law, Postcolonial, post colonial, Third World, TWAIL, Critical International Law, Sovereignty, Development, Economic Growth, World Bank, Sen, De Soto, Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources, Decolonization, Decolonisation, International Monetary Fund, United Nations, Rule of Law

JEL Classification: K00, K33

Suggested Citation

Pahuja, Sundhya, Decolonizing International Law: Development, Economic Growth and the Politics of Universality (January 18, 2011). DECOLONIZING INTERNATIONAL LAW: DEVELOPMENT, ECONOMIC GROWTH AND THE POLITICS OF UNIVERSALITY ; U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 520. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1743269

Sundhya Pahuja (Contact Author)

Melbourne Law School ( email )

University of Melbourne
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
Australia
+61 3 8344 7102 (Phone)

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