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From Freedom and Equality to Domination and Subordination: Feminist and Anti-Colonialist Critiques of the Vattelian Heritage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 June 2013

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The chapter takes as its starting point Pieter Kooijman's critique of Vattel's thinning out of the concept of authority in international law, one which attaches to the idea of state equality the possibility for each state to insist upon its own standards to the exclusion of any objective standards in the conduct of international relations. The chapter traces Vattel's contextual background in major Enlightenment shifts which set up a pernicious triad of thinkers such as Mandeville, Smith and de Sade. These thinkers make of post-Enlightenment economic and social relations a struggle of Master and Slave, most easily and clearly depicted in feminist studies, but also finding expression in imperialist relations and in particular, the unequal relations between the West and China, with the continuing inconclusive debate about unequal treaties. The chapter uses close study of a possible ‘anti-feminist’ novel, and feminist critique thereof, as well as a fairly extensive critique of the place of China in the recent history of international law, to argue that the present return of China to the position of a world power able to challenge the global system, could auger ill for post-Vattelian international law. Feminist critique is used to show that the post-Enlightenment ethical-cultural resources of international law are not equal to offering a country such as China more than a ‘masculine’ resort to its own self-strengthening. A search for alternatives ways to constructive dialogue are imperative, but, as Kooijmans shows, after Vattel the task of the international lawyer to contribute effectively is immeasurably disadvantaged.

Part I Legal Equality and the International Rule of Law Essays in honour of Pieter H. Kooymans
Copyright © T.M.C. Asser Instituut and the Authors 2013 

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