The decay of international law

A reappraisal of the limits of legal imagination in international affairs

Anthony Carty
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This book presents a message that there is no effective international legal order to restrain the unilateralism of States. It provides the basic reasons which make unilateralism inevitable. States owe their existence to a matter of historical fact and do not have their statehood conceded to them by a higher authority. The book underlines that it is essential for the discipline of international law to recognise that international society consists of frightened 'independent States', embroiled in an anxiety-ridden drive to secure their own existence, while enveloping themselves in the 'lawfare' of the value nihilism which underlies modern legal positivism. The wider context is a commitment to a classical ontology of natural law and to a more usual understanding of decadence, whether of international law or anything else. The book deconstructs the illusory fabric of an international legal community supposedly resting in a common consciousness of a customary international law. International law doctrine asks us to imagine that States have a juridical conscience (an opinion juris) which evolves historically, as they become aware of how their repeated conduct reflects a juridical conviction that this conduct is required by Law. This view of international law as rooted finally in custom is an illusion of nineteenth-century legal historicism which was already bankrupt by 1914, with the disintegration of European civilisation in the Great War.

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