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3 - Law as conversation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 July 2009

Ian Duncanson
Affiliation:
Adjunct Associate Professor Griffith Law School; Research Associate Institute of Postcolonial Studies, Melbourne
Anne Orford
Affiliation:
University of Melbourne
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Summary

Absolutist and sovereign conditions of law

This chapter explores a concept that has been of some importance in international law, and recurs throughout this book, namely that of sovereignty. Is international law, as the Victorian positivists believed, something merely persuasive, law only by analogy, by virtue of its having behind it no sovereign in a state, the sign of whose volition its proper credentials require it to be? Historically, the concept of sovereignty has been closely associated not only with the state, but with the practice of imperial expansion. Indigenous people encountered by marauding Europeans often ordered themselves without the elaborate institutions of sovereign government. As a consequence they entered their conquerors' consciousnesses almost as hostile elements of the landscape, noxious pests to be exterminated. Their visibility to Europeans as a form of authentic humanity depended on assimilation to the habits of their betters.

The failure of British sensitivity to the possibility of social orders based on convention and manners, mutually understood rituals, even taught ways of addressing others so as to avoid giving offence and endangering the peace of the community, seems especially odd. Their own experience of civil disorder in the seventeenth century, a series of clashes of rival certainties concerning religion and political organization, led writers from Locke and Shaftesbury in England, to the Scottish Enlightenment literati, men like Hume and Adam Smith, to search for cultural solutions to the problems of peace and stability.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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  • Law as conversation
    • By Ian Duncanson, Adjunct Associate Professor Griffith Law School; Research Associate Institute of Postcolonial Studies, Melbourne
  • Edited by Anne Orford, University of Melbourne
  • Book: International Law and its Others
  • Online publication: 20 July 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511494284.003
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  • Law as conversation
    • By Ian Duncanson, Adjunct Associate Professor Griffith Law School; Research Associate Institute of Postcolonial Studies, Melbourne
  • Edited by Anne Orford, University of Melbourne
  • Book: International Law and its Others
  • Online publication: 20 July 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511494284.003
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Law as conversation
    • By Ian Duncanson, Adjunct Associate Professor Griffith Law School; Research Associate Institute of Postcolonial Studies, Melbourne
  • Edited by Anne Orford, University of Melbourne
  • Book: International Law and its Others
  • Online publication: 20 July 2009
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511494284.003
Available formats
×