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Law and the Political Economy of the World*

  • DAVID KENNEDY
Abstract

The interpenetration of global political and economic life has placed questions of ‘political economy’ on the scholarly agenda across the social sciences. The author argues that international law could contribute to understanding and transforming centre–periphery patterns of dynamic inequality in global political economic life. The core elements of both economic and political activity – capital, labour, credit, and money, as well as public or private power and right – are legal institutions. Law is the link binding centres and peripheries to one another and structuring their interaction. It is also the vernacular through which power and wealth justify their exercise and shroud their authority. The author proposes rethinking international law as a terrain for political and economic struggle rather than as a normative or technical substitute for political choice, itself indifferent to natural flows of economic activity.

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This essay summarizes and extends a series of studies I have undertaken in the fields of international law, international economic law, comparative law, European law, the law of war, and the law of economic development which can be found on my website at www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/dkennedy/publications. I cite here only works developing examples which I highlight here and which were not cited in those prior studies. Versions of this essay were delivered at the American University of Cairo, 19 February 2012; at King's College London, 19 April 2012; and at Sciences Po Law School, Paris, 11 May 2012.

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1 Weber, M., ‘Politics as a Vocation’, in Weber, Essays in Sociology (ed. Garth, H. and Mills, C.) (1946), 26 at 45.

2 See, for example, G. Myrdal, An Approach to the Asian Drama: Methodological and Theoretical Selections from Asian Drama: An Inquiry into the Poverty of Nations (1970), App. 2.

3 Kennedy, D., ‘The Stakes of Law, or Hale and Foucault!’, (1991) XV (4)Legal Studies Forum 327.

4 A. Anghie, Imperialism, Sovereignty and the Making of International Law (2007) (arguing generally that while international law saw itself as preoccupied with extending a universal normative order to ever more sovereign equals, it was actually preoccupied with managing the dynamics between unequal civilizations or cultures).

5 Damjan Kukovec's ongoing doctoral work argues precisely this. See Damjan Kukovec, ‘Whose Social Europe?’, talk delivered at Harvard Law School (16 April, 2010), available at www.harvardiglp.org/new-thinking-new-writing/whose-social-europe-the-lavalviking-judements-and-the-prosperity-gap; Damjan Kukovec, ‘A Critique of the Rhetoric of Common Interest in the EU Legal Discourse’, talk delivered at Harvard Law School (13 April 2012), available at www.harvardiglp.org/new-thinking-new-writing/a-critique-of-rhetoric; and Damjan Kukovec, ‘A Critique of the Rhetoric of Common Interest in the EU Legal Discourse’, SJD dissertation, Harvard Law School, forthcoming.

6 Ermal Frasheri makes this point in ‘Transformation and Social Change: Legal Reform in the Modernization Process’, Nellco Legal Scholarship Repository, 9-5-2008; and in his ongoing doctoral work: ‘Of Knights and Squires: European Union and the Modernization of Albania’, SJD dissertation, Harvard Law School, forthcoming.

7 See Lorca, Arnulf Becker, Mestizo International Law: A Global Intellectual History, 1850–1950 (forthcoming 2013, Cambridge University Press).

8 See, for example, W. Friedmann, The Changing Structure of International Law (1964); A. Slaughter, ‘A Liberal Theory of International Law’, Proceedings of the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law (2000) 240; and Kennedy, D., ‘Turning to Market Democracy: A Tale of Two Architectures’, (1992) 32 HILJ 373.

9 B. Garth and Y. Dezalay, Dealing in Virtue: International Commercial Arbitration and the Construction of a Transnational Legal Order (1996); see also Shalakany, A., ‘Arbitration and the Third World: Bias under the Scepter of Neoliberalism’, (2000) 41 HILJ 419.

10 Corfu Channel (United Kingdom v. Albania), Merits, Judgment of 9 April 1949, [1949] ICJ Rep. 4, at 39 (Judge Alvarez, Individual Opinion).

* This essay summarizes and extends a series of studies I have undertaken in the fields of international law, international economic law, comparative law, European law, the law of war, and the law of economic development which can be found on my website at www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/dkennedy/publications. I cite here only works developing examples which I highlight here and which were not cited in those prior studies. Versions of this essay were delivered at the American University of Cairo, 19 February 2012; at King's College London, 19 April 2012; and at Sciences Po Law School, Paris, 11 May 2012.

** David Kennedy is Manley O. Hudson Professor of Law and Director of the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School.

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Leiden Journal of International Law
  • ISSN: 0922-1565
  • EISSN: 1478-9698
  • URL: /core/journals/leiden-journal-of-international-law
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