Having dominated the discipline since its professionalization at the end of the nineteenth century, the standard of civilization gradually lost its predominance after the Second World War and came to be seen as an embarrassing anachronism, largely inconsequential for contemporary international law. This chapter challenges this conventional narrative about the gradual demise of the standard of civilization. It does so in conversation with critical historiographies of international law, including the work of Antony Anghie, Martti Koskenniemi and China Miéville. First, the chapter provides a brief history of ‘civilization’, emphasizing that its disappearance as an explicit concept was accompanied by its metastasis in the grammar of international law, the discipline’s structures and patterns of argumentation. Second, it seeks to systematize the meaning and functions of ‘civilization’, pointing both at its transformations over time and at its continuing entanglement with the logic and contradictions of the capitalist mode of production.
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