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Critical International LawPostrealism, Postcolonialism, and Transnationalism$
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Prabhakar Singh and Benoît Mayer

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199450633

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199450633.001.0001

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Riddle of the Sands

Riddle of the Sands

Time, Power, and Legitimacy in International Law

Chapter:
(p.53) 2 Riddle of the Sands
Source:
Critical International Law
Author(s):

John R. Morss

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199450633.003.0002

This chapter argues that the critical enterprise within international law needs to get to grips with both diachronic and synchronic processes. The chapter contends that history is poorly articulated in international law. Myths of origin such as ‘Westphalia’ substitute for scholarship. Special kinds of legal fiction relating to temporal change have been constructed within international law, for example the legal fiction of ‘customary international law’ with its extraordinary account of chronological causality. The doctrine of uti possidetis juris provides another example of international law’s ability to paper over the conceptual cracks with the least substantial of formulae. Furthermore, the discipline also strives to sequester synchronic processes. Although power relations are clearly of great significance to international law, the discipline strives to sequester those processes. This chapter suggests new ways of recognizing and dealing with issues of time and power within the discipline of international law.

Keywords:   time, power, legitimacy, international law, uti possidetis juris, customary law

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