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Civilizational Diversity as Challenge to the (False) Universality of International Law

  • Lauri MÄLKSOO (a1)
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Professor of International Law, University of Tartu. Research for this paper was supported by grant IUT20-50 from the Estonian Research Council.

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1. Owen BOWCOTT, “No British Judge on World Court for First Time in Its 71-year History” The Guardian (20 November 2017), online: The Guardian <>.

2. See e.g. TUNKIN, G.I., Theory of International Law, W.E. Butler, trans., ed. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974) .

3. See e.g. BEDJAOUI, Mohammed, Towards a New International Economic Order (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1979) ; ELIAS, T.O., New Horizons in International Law (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana, 1979) .

4. See GONG, G.W., The Standard of ’Civilization’ in International Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984) .

5. See SCHMITT, Carl, The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, G.L. Ulmen, trans. (New York: Telos Press, 2003) .

6. See KOSKENNIEMI, Martii, The Gentle Civilizer of Nations: The Rise and Fall of International Law 1870–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) .

7. See e.g. TESON, F.R., Humanitarian Intervention: An Inquiry into Law and Morality (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988) .

8. ONUMA, Yasuaki, International Law in a Transcivilizational World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017) at 31.

9. Ibid., at 218: “For the overwhelming majority of humanity, the 21st century will be the period of sovereignization of states.”

10. Ibid., at 189: “According to the modern theory of law, which humanity basically accepts today, the human person is the fundamental being for which all laws, including international law, exist and function.”

11. See e.g. ibid., at 251.

12. Ibid., at 60, 420.

13. HUNTINGTON, S.P., The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996) .

14. Onuma, supra note 8 at 7, 14.

15. SCHMITT, Carl, The Concept of the Political, G. Schwab, trans. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007) at 54.

16. TAUBE, M.A., “Études sur le développement du droit international dans l’Europe orientale” (1926) Recueil des cours 341535 ; VINOGRADOFF, P., On the History of International Law and International Organization—Collected Papers of Sir Paul Vinogradoff, W.E. Butler, ed. (Clark, NJ: Lawbook Exchange, 2009) .

17. See GREWE, W.G., The Epochs of International Law, M. Byers, trans., ed. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2000) .

18. For example, Onuma writes: “People over the world came to see the world basically through the prism of Europe and the US” (Onuma, supra note 8 at 83), and that “discourses critical of states have been prevalent for the last several decades” (Onuma, supra note 8 at 192). In my reading, not so in Russia and China, where discourses critical of states are not at all prevalent in international law. Thus, Onuma’s impression can only come from the overwhelming impression of Western literature.

19. See e.g. Patrick DONAHUE and Ian WISHART, “Merkel, Orban Clash on Refugees, Laying Bare European Disunity” Bloomberg (30 March 2017), online: Bloomberg <> (the Hungarian Prime Minister explaining West European migration policies with “leftist ideology” that imposed guilt “for the crusades and colonialism”).

20. See e.g. TOYNBEE, A.J., A Study of History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987) ; BRAUDEL, F., A History of Civilizations, R. Mayne, trans. (New York: Allen Lane/Penguin Press, 1994) .

* Professor of International Law, University of Tartu. Research for this paper was supported by grant IUT20-50 from the Estonian Research Council.

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Asian Journal of International Law
  • ISSN: 2044-2513
  • EISSN: 2044-2521
  • URL: /core/journals/asian-journal-of-international-law
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