International Law as Primitive Accumulation; Or, the Secret of Systematic Colonization


This article aims to bring the category of ‘primitive accumulation’ into the vocabulary of critical and Marxist international legal theory. It does so by first elaborating the critique of international law that has recently developed through the lens of colonialism, by bringing to bear on the issue Marx’s thinking about colonization and thus his arguments concerning accumulation. In so doing the article also seeks to be an immanent critique of critical international legal theory itself, by suggesting that critical international legal theory is limited by its failure to properly use and think through what Marx might offer. The bulk of the article involves some historical claims, but the central argument is theoretical: offering a category to consolidate the connections that have been made among capital, colonization and international law. This requires a revelation of the secret of Marx’s Capital; the secret of capital and the secret of systematic colonization, all of which takes us to the secret of international law.

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