Laboratory for Advanced Research on the Global Economy

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Beyond Global Capitalism: Reclaiming the Future of International Law

Contemporary international law supports a particular approach to the market and the promotion of economic interests. Since the early 1990s, it has been constructed around a neoliberal ideology supporting a global capitalism of markets for goods, services and technology, open foreign investment regimes, and the free flow of capital across state borders. This ideology reflects a general commitment to private title and privatization, to commodification and accumulation, but was built around the promises by the economically powerful of widespread social and economic benefit. In significant ways these promises did not materialize, often because international law promotes the wrong values and benefits the powerful at the expense of the weak, either by design or because of its structural inadequacies. What has become apparent are the ways in which domination, exploitation and coercion, accompanied by gross inequalities, serve as a set of unexamined facts about the global economy and its normative order, international law. The post-1945 international legal order was supposed to be a break from the coercion of international law of the past in the interests of justice, but what seems to have happened is that the coercion has simply taken on a particular form, which, when combined with fragmentation in international law, have resulted in serious normative deficiencies.  

This collaborative writing project studies the international legal regimes of investment, trade, finance and human rights and the terms on which humanity has been challenged by them. Drawing on a range of disciplinary insights, the work will expose problematic cleavages – the separation of the economic and non-economic realms, the bifurcation of the internal and external affairs of states, and the existence of both the fragmentation of international legal orders as well as their unity of purpose in so far as the worst tendencies of self-interest in a market find sustenance among them all. This is an inquiry into what is in essence the economic violence of international law and perhaps the basis for its redemption.

This work is under contract with Oxford University Press and is due to be published in late 2017 as The Misery of International Law: Confrontations with Injustice in the Global Economy


John Linarelli is Chair in Commercial Law at Durham University, co-directs the Institute of Commercial and Corporate Law at Durham and is a member of the Centre for Law and Global Justice at Durham.

Margot Salomon is Associate Professor in the Law Department and the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics where she directs the Laboratory for Advanced Research on the Global Economy.

Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah is CJ Koh Professor of Law at the National University of Singapore.