in: European journal of international law
The Battle for International Law is a forceful collection that addresses the seismic challenges to the international legal order posed by the formal decolonization movements of the mid-20th century. The editors borrow from Reinhart Koselleck to frame the decades between the Bandung Conference in 1955 and the declaration of a New International Economic Order in 1974 as a Sattelzeit, or 'bridging period', between two eras of Western domination. The concept provides a coherent, flexible frame for a strong field of 19 chapters, organized around concepts, institutions, protagonists and regional perspectives emblematic of the period in question. At a time when exhibitionist defences of colonialism and imperialism are resurgent, this collection's solidarist restatement of key themes of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) and Marxist international law is timely. However, in reproducing international law's long-critiqued statist concept of decolonization, the editors effectively consign the politics of decolonization to the past, and to the South. This does not reflect contemporary debates on the meaning of decolonization as an on-going struggle with material and epistemic dimensions. As a result, the volume leaves a crucial question open for consideration: How might contemporary international lawyers conceive of their relationship to decolonization, understood not as an era of the 20th century, but as an unresolved challenge for the 21st?