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Popular Will and International Law: The Expansion of Capitalism, the Question of Legitimate Authority, and the Universalisation of the Nation-State

Loefflad, Eric Daniel (2019) Popular Will and International Law: The Expansion of Capitalism, the Question of Legitimate Authority, and the Universalisation of the Nation-State. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent, University of Kent. (KAR id:80677)

Language: English
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The idea of 'popular will', or a people's ability to freely choose its preferred mode of political authority over any outside objection, forms the basis for domestic au-thority under international law. Such an outcome is the conclusion of consistently adhering to international law's presumptions of sovereign equality and noninter-vention most iconically encapsulated in the Charter of the United Nations. How-ever, while popular will theoretically allows the people of a sovereign state to pur-sue any governmental system, applying a methodology I deem 'world-historical context' reveals the limits of what can be substantively attained. Formed as an interdisciplinary synthesis of critical international legal history and the historical sociology of international relations, my analysis reveals how the globalization of popular will, and its vesting of sovereignty in the abstraction of a territory's underlying political community as opposed to the person of a dynastic monarch, is inseparable from the expansion of capitalism. On this basis, the mate-rial success of achieving popular will depends on the degree to which it facilitates global capitalism. The construction of this arrangement places radical political leaders and movements in a dilemma whereby claiming popular will is the only means of gaining international legal recognition, yet doing so comes at the expense of pursuing experimental alternatives to capitalist social relations. In this situation, 'effective control' has emerged as the default 'non-ideological' standard for externally evaluating international legal standing when competing domestic factions are claiming sovereign authority and, therefore, the representa-tion of popular will. In working from this premise that de facto 'effective control' is generally sufficient evidence of 'popular will', I historicize this framework as first appearing as a natural law counterfactual in Emer de Vattel's 1758 treatise The Law of Nations. Given the contradictions that emerged with capitalism and the crises of legitimate authority it produced in the late eighteenth and early nine-teenth centuries, the world proved highly receptive to Vattel's framework. This manifested, in compounding measures, through the American Revolution, French Revolution, and formation of the modern European states-system, and the inde-pendence of Latin American states. While these formative eruptions of popular will were subject to a century of limitation and qualification through various legal regimes of colonialism and exclusion, the idea of a global legal order of absolute sovereigns representing popular will returned with the end of the Second World War and rise of the UN system. Yet, despite this achievement of a 'world of pop-ular will', the marginalization of alternative political economic models persists. At-tempt to identify the place of international law when developing greater projects of popular emancipation cannot, therefore, ignore the 'world-historical context' presented by this thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Eslava, Luis
Thesis advisor: Kendall, Sara
Thesis advisor: Vigneron, Sophie
Uncontrolled keywords: Public International Law, International Legal History, Popular Sovereignty, Capitalism, International Relations, the Nation-State
Subjects: K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2020 08:55 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:12 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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