International Law in Europe: Between Tradition and Renewal

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Abstract

International law is a European tradition. Nevertheless, like many other European traditions, it imagines itself as universal. Throughout its history, it has been associated with projects such as Christianity, secular statehood, enlightenment, ‘civilization’, free trade and human rights. International law’s association with particular ideas or preferences does not, however, even slightly undermine it. There are no authentic universals that one could know independently of their particular manifestations. The key question is a political one: Are there good reasons for extending the scope of such ideas or preferences? Answering this question may not have been assisted by the turning of some of them into kitsch. But is that the condition of their universality?

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