The Empire of International Law?

Forthcoming, The American Journal of International Law

25 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2018

See all articles by Karen J. Alter

Karen J. Alter

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science; University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law - iCourts Center of Excellence

Date Written: August 6, 2018

Abstract

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.

Keywords: international, Law, colonial, multilateral, legal, order, trajectory, early, twentieth, century

Suggested Citation

Alter, Karen J., The Empire of International Law? (August 6, 2018). Forthcoming, The American Journal of International Law. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3226898

Karen J. Alter (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

601 University Place
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law - iCourts Center of Excellence ( email )

Karen Blixens Plads 16
Copenhagen, DK-2300
Denmark

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