Cynical International LawSymposium

In international law we (do not) trust

The persistent rejection of economic and social rights as a manifestation of cynicism

Economic and Social Rights (ESRs) are the unloved and unwanted last born child of the human rights family. Despite a promising start in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the UDHR), ESRs still retain a second class status in most national jurisdictions. What explains this cynicism with which ESRs are (still) regarded? This blogpost analyzes how the skeptical gaze through which ESRs are often viewed legitimizes (or attempts) to legitimize …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

The Edge of Enlightenment

The EU’s struggle with post-fascist cynicism

Recently, Harvard professor Steven Pinker’s book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”, which explores the effect of the Enlightenment on contemporary societies worldwide and also anti-Enlightenment movements in the West, became an international bestseller. Applying his findings about the age-old symbiotic relationship between certain elements of “Western civilization” and (post-) Fascism to certain developments both at the EU level and in individual member states, we can …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

An ideal at sea

International law and a ‘conflict through norm-genesis’ approach

International law is supposed to establish peace and prevent inter-state conflicts. At the same time, it is the central means for states to legitimize and communicate their claims in respect of the international community. For instance, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was designed to act as the ‘constitution for the oceans’ and to ‘promote the maintenance of international peace and security’ (Koh, 1982). Today, …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

From speaking truth to power to speaking power’s truth

Transnational judicial activism in an increasingly illiberal world

From San José to Karlsruhe, Strasbourg to New Delhi, in both the Global North and South, judges have been at the forefront of the establishment of a new jus gentium common to all humankind. Implicit in this narrative, however, lies the idea that transnational judicial activism has inherent progressive outcomes: the rule of law, human rights, or liberalism tout court are the necessary products of these new forms of judicial …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

International law beyond cynicism and critique

A plea for a legal scholarship that offers alternatives instead of reinforcing the status quo

Cynics do not have to look far: critical international law has uncovered the ways in which the forces of colonialism and imperialism have been present in the international legal system from its foundation to the present. According to David Kennedy, it is not only cynical use of law by despots but experts, including legal scholars, that –subtly but surely – enable, reproduce, legalize and legitimize this international legal system. With …

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Cynical International LawSymposium

Cynical International Law?

Announcement of the Online Symposium and Keynote Lecture Livestream

Cynicism and its relation to international law is a question that has so far not comprehensively been studied. Cynicism has been used in a cursory fashion by international lawyers, e.g. when denouncing the invocation of legal justifications by certain actors as ‘cynical’. Others have applied the concept to international lawyers and their attitude towards their own profession. But the concept of cynicism might also be applied to international law itself: …

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ABC of OPTBook ReviewSymposium

Response: Critiquing in the Light of The ABC of the OPT

We are grateful to Verfassungblog for dedicating a symposium to The ABC of the OPT; to Anne Peters and Alexandra Kemmerer for their generosity of mind, indeed the contextual mindfulness in which they held a launching event for the book in Berlin (sponsored by both the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law, International Law‘s Berlin Office and Recht im Kontext (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) and wrote the introduction to this symposium; and …

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ABC of OPTBook ReviewSymposium

“Say My Name”: The Politics of Not Naming

At first sight, the “ABC of the OPT” creates the impression that this is yet another book written exclusively by Israeli academics about a situation that has profoundly transformed the framework of occupation law—and international humanitarian law in general—a long time ago. This first impression is underpinned by the use of hegemonically loaded terminology, structure, and choice of entries and sources. Despite the many nuances academics employ to draw a …

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ABC of OPTBook ReviewSymposium

The broken promise of belligerent occupation law

The ABC of the OPT, the award-winning new publication by three outstanding Israeli scholars and jurists – Orna Ben-Naftali, Michael Sfard and Hedi Viterbo –demonstrates, in a masterly fashion, the use and abuse of the laws of belligerent occupation as a masquerade for raw power and as a tool for oppression. The authors illustrate, using the format of a legal lexicon dedicated to specific legal terms and rhetorical devices (or newspeak), …

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ABC of OPTBook ReviewSymposium

Phantom sovereignty and the imaginary version of international law

In the ABC of the OPT, Orna Ben-Naftali, Michael Sfard and Hedi Viterbo offer a guidebook for the legal tourist – a narrated cartography to the strange legal planet that has become Israel/Palestine, governed by hundreds of military and civil officials that harbor wide discretion and a flexible rule that I call phantom sovereignty. Shaped as a lexicon, it includes entries that offer both a thematic and a chronological history …

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