Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 July 2004
The watershed of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 calls for new approaches to the theory of international law. Hardt and Negri's Empire is a focal point for the broadly postmodernist New Approaches to International Law, which celebrates an infinite variety of resistances to oppressive structures. This book is itself in need of deconstruction. Post-structuralism must give way to a framework of analysis that accepts a place for agency, and with it, responsibility, alongside social structures. Contemporary Marxist critique of international relations, coming mainly from the field of geopolitical international history, can combine with social democratic critique of the international economic system to attach firm responsibility for the material economic woes of international society to the United States. The militarism of US foreign policy is, in a Marxist critique, primarily a function of US economic contradictions. Law plays a role here as a coercive instrument of the state. This state is capitalist in operating globally a system of accumulation by dispossession. Where necessary it reinforces its operations with violence. However, international law, as an expression of the equality of nations, especially in their social needs, is honoured in the breach by such dispossession and violence.