Review Essay: 'Power and the Rule of Law in the Global Context', Review of Anne Orford's Reading of Humanitarian Intervention
21 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2018
Date Written: 2004
Mainstream conceptions of the relationship between international law and power have significant limitations which lead to a consistent underestimation of the power of international law in constituting and maintaining the hierarchical relationship between North and South and render invisible what are arguably international law’s own imperialising urges. This review essay situates Reading Humanitarian Intervention within the broader body of critical approaches which challenge this blindness. It argues that Orford’s work is a compelling addition to that corpus, particularly in its sophisticated reconceptualisation of power in the context of putatively humanitarian interventions and its pointed consideration of the congruence of the military and the economic. The essay concludes by embracing Orford’s emphasis on critique as a political strategy, but wonders whether a necessary complement to the methodologies, both of this book, and of critical international law scholarship more generally, demands an increased attention to the nature of modern law. Such a focus would trouble the seemingly emancipatory possibility of a (re)turn to human rights and demand a relational, rather than refounded, understanding of international law.
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