The Rise of the BRICS in the Global Political Economy

The Rise of the BRICS in the Global Political Economy

Changing Paradigms?

Edited by Vai Io Lo and Mary Hiscock

Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Vai Io Lo and Mary Hiscock, together with scholars and researchers from around the world, investigate the rise of the BRICS and assess the extent of their further development and influence from the perspectives of economics, international relations and law.

Chapter 17: The role of the BRICS in international law in a multipolar world

Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy


Two tectonic changes occurred in international relations in the last 25 years. The first was the fall of the Soviet Union resulting in the complete hegemony of the US. In this period the world moved towards an order modelled on the preferences of the US, driven by the central themes of democracy and market capitalism (Mandelbaum, 2002). As a result international law came to be used instrumentally to achieve the twin ideological preferences of the hegemonic state. Interventionary norms came to be justified on the basis of promotion of democracy and ending of dictatorships, Iraq being an example. The intervention was originally justified on the grounds that Iraq was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. The justification was changed as such weapons could not be discovered. It was later justified on the grounds that it was necessary to remove a cruel and unjust dictator. The notion of humanitarian intervention had been used earlier as a justification for NATOís intervention in Kosovo. Market capitalism and liberalization of the flows of trade, capital and investment were the themes that drove the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the fields of finance and foreign investment. A network of new laws resulted in the areas of trade and investment based on the preferences of the hegemonic power. A hegemonic order was built upon the twin notions of democracy and free market. The second tectonic change was the apparent collapse of this order.

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