International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements, and Third World Resistance

International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements, and Third World Resistance

International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements, and Third World Resistance

International Law from Below: Development, Social Movements, and Third World Resistance

Excerpt

This book chronicles the complex relationship between international law and the Third World, during the twentieth century. It does so by suggesting that it is impossible to obtain a full understanding of this complex relationship unless one factors in two phenomena: first, a focus on development discourse as the governing logic of the political, economic, and social life in the Third World; and second, an appreciation of the role of social movements in shaping the relationship between Third World resistance and international law. The suggestion in this book is that dominant approaches to international law are deficient because they neither take development discourse to be important for the very formation of international law and institutions, nor do they adopt a subaltern perspective that enables a real appreciation of the role of social movements in the evolution of international law. The central concern then is: how does one write resistance into international law and make it recognize subaltern voices? In particular, international law has been crucially shaped during the twentieth century by the nature and the forms of Third World resistance to development. This has happened at at least two levels: first, substantial parts of the architecture of international law – international institutions – have evolved, in ambivalent relationship with this resistance; second, human-rights discourse has been fundamentally shaped and limited – by the forms of Third World resistance to development. The focus on these two areas of international law – international institutions and human rights – is simply due to the centrality of these areas of law in modern international law, that is, from the League of Nations. By showing that the central aspects of modern international law cannot be understood without taking due account of the impact of development and Third World social movements, this work challenges traditional narratives of how international legal change has come about and how one might understand the place of law in progressive social praxis. I argue that international law needs to be fundamentally rethought if it is to take the disparate forms of Third World resistance seriously.

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