Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 July 2009
Institutional and political developments since the end of the Cold War have led to a revival of public interest in questions of international law and cosmopolitan legality. This has intensified with the violent attacks on the US of 11 September 2001, and the use of force against the territory and people of Afghanistan and Iraq carried out in response. Many scholars in law and the humanities have embraced a cosmopolitan vision of the future of international law in answer to the sense of crisis which these events have precipitated. Liberal international law is increasingly appealed to as offering a bulwark both against the threats posed by terrorists, religious militants, failed states, environmental degradation and epidemics, and against the excesses of the measures taken by states in response to these perceived threats. Commentators look to international law as a source of constraints on the abuses of hegemonic power, as a means of responding to the threats posed to the state by terrorism and economic globalization, or as a field in which economic justice and global co-operation should be on the agenda. The international is imagined, for good or ill, as a space outside the order imposed by independent sovereign states – a space in which law, the state and the subject all reach their limits. The revival of interest in and anxiety about those limits is expressed in the appeal to international law and by reference to imperialism, terrorism, human rights and the state of exception.