Rival Worlds and the Place of the Corporation in International Law
Dann and Von Bernstorff (eds), Decolonisation and the Battle for International Law (OUP, 2018)
Posted: 19 Jan 2018
Date Written: 2018
Struggles ‘over’ international law in the period between 1955 and 1974 should be understood not as a battle to control a pre-existing international law in an extant world, but instead as marking a series of encounters between rival practices of world making, each of which travelled with rival accounts of international law. The question of the corporation, how it should be conceptualized, and its proper relation to law and state, was a key element of those rival stories. In this paper, we will deploy a novel methodological orientation toward an ‘historically inflected jurisprudence’, to the (successful) effort to establish the UN Commission on Transnational Corporations, and the (unsuccessful) attempt to draft a binding convention on Trans National Corporations. This telling institutional moment reveals that the struggle over the proper understanding of the relationship between international law, the state, and corporation-which-travels was a struggle between rival practices of authorization, invoking both the authorship of worlds, as well as the authority to govern them. Paying attention to such practices shows us that the battle lines were drawn in ways which upset the comfortable rehearsal of a North-South divide. Anti-colonial struggles, the incipient ‘Cold War’, the invention of Development, and the implementation of a (Marshall) Plan to (re)construct Europe, all played into the generation of rival imaginaries and competing anxieties, producing unexpected commonalities include coalitions across North and South, and instructive alliances of interest between ‘public’ and ‘private’ actors. Slowing down our study of this moment reveals that much of what was a stake then remains so today, and that other worlds are still possible.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation