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International Law and EmpireHistorical Explorations$
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Martti Koskenniemi, Walter Rech, and Manuel Jiménez Fonseca

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795575

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795575.001.0001

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Scepticism of the Civilizing Mission in International Law

Scepticism of the Civilizing Mission in International Law

(p.359) 15 Scepticism of the Civilizing Mission in International Law
International Law and Empire

Andrew Fitzmaurice

Oxford University Press

The ‘standard of civilization’ dominated nineteenth-century positivists’ accounts of international law. The association of the idea of civilization with progress has broad appeal, and the concept continues to animate discussions of international conduct today. This chapter focuses on the history of opposition to this idea, and with scepticism and ambivalence concerning a standard of civilization as the basis for an international law of nations XE “jus gentium:based on the standard of civilization”. Nineteenth-century scepticism is particularly addressed because during this period positivism XE “positivism” in hand with nationalism XE “nationalism:connection to positivism” brought the Eurocentrism in international law and the civilizing mission to a peak and nourished a new wave of imperialism. Some jurists both rejected the civilizing mission and critiqued empire. Other critics did not oppose empire and colonization, but nevertheless opposed civilization as a standard of the membership of society of nations. Apart from their shared scepticism of the civilizing mission, these perspectives shared an understanding of empire in terms of interests. The consequences of removing the dichotomy between ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized’ and instead understanding international law in terms of interests are explored.

Keywords:   International law, eurocentrism, empire, standard of civilization, progress, positivism, interests, scepticism

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