International Law as a Crisis Discourse: The Peril of Wordlessness
in Makane Mbengue and Jean d’Aspremont (eds), Crisis Narratives in International Law (Brill, 2021)
17 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2020
Date Written: October 3, 2020
International law lives off crises, lives its crises, and lives in crisis. International law is a discourse for crisis, about crisis, and in crisis. In short, international law is a crisis discourse. In that sense, engaging with international law from the vantage point of crisis hardly adds anything, let alone proves novel. International lawyers are the masters of a discourse that is all about containing, making, and surviving crises in an interventionist, and managerial spirit. Against this backdrop, the very extensive literature that burgeoned following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing but business as usual for a crisis discourse like international law. And yet, as this paper tries to demonstrate, should international law let the looming climate catastrophe – as well as the calamitous consequences of the measures necessary to avert it entail – be absorbed in its crisis narratives and in what is called here its ‘normally abnormal normality’, international law would be condemned to wordlessness.
Keywords: International law, pandemic, COVID-19, crisis narratives, climate catastrophe, climate change, critical legal theory, wordlessness, world-making
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