Concepts for International Law
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Concepts for International Law

Contributions to Disciplinary Thought

Edited by Jean d’Aspremont and Sahib Singh

Concepts shape how we understand and participate in international legal affairs. They are an important site for order, struggle and change. This comprehensive and authoritative volume introduces a large number of concepts that have shaped, at various points in history, international legal practice and thought; intimates at how the many projects of international law have grappled with, and influenced, the world through certain concepts; and introduces new concepts into the discipline.
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Chapter 6: Civilization

Ntina Tzouvala

Abstract

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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