Globalization and the Theory of International Law

13 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2005

Date Written: June 13, 2005


The dominant modern account of the social basis of international law has been the society of states model. In this view, to the extent that international law constructs an ordered social space (a claim which has been contested since Hobbes if not before), it is a social space in which states are the actors. This view has had a profound effect on international law. For example, the doctrine of state responsibility classically understands international harms to individuals within a framework of harm to a state's rights. Normatively, to the extent justice is considered an operational concept in international law, it is considered at the level of relations between states, as the morality of states. International human rights law is widely credited with beginning the contemporary shift away from this model. This paper argues that contemporary globalization is completing this transformation, by both requiring, and permitting, the re-casting of international law away from a society of states model and towards a global society model. By effectively eliminating both time and space as factors in social interaction, globalization is changing the nature of global social relations, intensifying the dynamic of obsolescence affecting the society of states model and requiring a fundamental change in the social theory of international law towards a global society of persons. Through these changes, globalization necessitates the re-casting of international law into a global public law, and expands the domain of justice as a normative criterion for international legal doctrine.

Keywords: international law, human rights law, globalization, society of states

Suggested Citation

Garcia, Frank Joseph, Globalization and the Theory of International Law (June 13, 2005). Boston College Law School Research Paper No. 75, Available at SSRN: or

Frank Joseph Garcia (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

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