Alejandro Alvarez, The Monroe Doctrine and the Art of Translation

Posted: 25 Jun 2007  

Carl Landauer


Date Written: April 20, 2007


As an extension of the special issue of the Leiden Journal of International Law on Alejandro Álvarez to launch the Periphery Series, my talk will take its point of departure from my contribution to the issue, "A Latin American in Paris: Alejandro Álvarez's Le droit international américain." I located Álvarez in his second home, Paris, within the French sociological/historical "solidarist" school of legal thought. His book may have provided a heroic image of Latin America developing its own regional international law away from the decadent forces of Europe and making significant contributions to international law generally. But to tell his story and gain authority as the practitioner of the French method, Álvarez highlights the unseemly, chaotic side of his native continent (including its violence and its caudillismo), and in the process adopts clear racial hierarchy as part of his explanatory model. And despite the progressive manifesto rhetoric of the book and its claims for the Latin American role, the substance of Álvarez's international law was ultimately fairly domesticated for his French audience.

But Álvarez is also triangulating, even doing so literally by telling us that that the nations of the Southern cone of South America are equidistant between Europe and the United States. And Álvarez provides an extended discussion of the US and the Monroe Doctrine, relating the importance of the "principle" of doctrine for the Latin American States as well as US moves into "hegemonic" practice. Álvarez was, in fact, commissioned by James Brown Scott (editor of the American Journal of International Law) to edit a centenary collection of Latin American and US writings on the doctrine for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and there he provides a translation of his discussion of the Monroe doctrine from Le droit international américain. But he also re-translates his text in his introduction by creating a politics/law divide, tapping into classical US tropes rather than the solidarism of his book from 1910. Methodological translation is part of his self-translation.

Suggested Citation

Landauer, Carl, Alejandro Alvarez, The Monroe Doctrine and the Art of Translation (April 20, 2007). Available at SSRN:

Carl Landauer (Contact Author)

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