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International Legal Theory



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The nineteenth-century doctrines known as "international law" developed out of the seventeenth-century "jus gentium" and eighteenth-century "law of nations." Now we see that twentieth-century scholars such as Richard Falk would like to speak of the "law of humanity". What is the value of such semantic shifts? Proponents of "international law" sought to promote a positivist doctrine, which would minimize the natural law elements of the old law of nations to privilege the views of governments and states. Advocates of the "law of humanity" presumably seek to diminish the role of states in international law by eliminating "nations" as the basis of world institutions. I will argue that this would be a profound mistake, which confuses the purposes of law, nations, peoples and the state.

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