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Cold War International Law


Clark, M and Simpson, G and Pahuja, S and Craven, M, Cold War International Law, Oxford Bibliographies Online - International Law pp. 1-29. (2020) [Substantial Review]

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DOI: doi:10.1093/OBO/9780199796953-0214


Cold War International Law has conventionally been structured around a historiography of hiatus. A "gap" is posited as inhering in international law sometime between 1948 and 1989. In this gap, there is very little international law—or there is an international law of suspension or crisis or deferral. Some of the present editors (Craven, Pahuja, Simpson) are constructing an alternative vision of Cold War international law as law of improvisation, of committed nonalignment, of ideational power, of responsibility, of complicity, of imagination, and of co-constitution. The Cold War needed international law, and the international law we have now is a product of the Cold War. Given all this, compiling a bibliography of Cold War international law raises some difficulties. A first, overarching challenge is how to relate two amorphous things: "international law," with its many meanings, subfields, instruments, and writers, to "Cold War" in its many forms, locations, experiences, and legacies. This is a problem of breadth and depth for "international law" and "Cold War" alike, but it is also a problem about the Cold War being, paradoxically, both everywhere and nowhere in postwar international law. There is no treaty, case, or juristic text from 1945 to 1991 that does not have some political and global dimension and thus a connection to the Cold War, and yet the term "Cold War" rarely appears within these texts. How to connect them? A second difficulty is about fields. Those interested in Cold War international law cannot avoid becoming well versed in the historical and political events of the era. These events are recounted and debated by scholars in new, complex ways. Cold War historiography, international relations, economics, culture, and sociology are each important, extensive, and indispensable fields, but they are also not often directed to questions of law. Third is the problem of newness. We may be on the cusp of new histories of Cold War international law, but a significant shift to thinking about Cold War international law as a subject in itself has not yet occurred. Evaluations of the Cold War’s "effect" on international law at the time tended to see impasse instead of development, a law subsumed under politics. Now it is clear enough that there is a morass of complex materials waiting to be examined, contextualized, and understood. But we are only just beginning to do that, and there are few major works to guide us. Against these challenges, this article is, then, a first guide. We acknowledge its limits. It is primarily an English-language bibliography, skewed toward writers and perspectives from the Western side of the Cold War. It favors materials that show clear connections between Cold War and international law, meaning many sources relevant to or revealing of the Cold War in more nuanced ways may be missed. Readers of these sources, then, must always take care to consider the partialities, worldviews, contexts, and projects of their authors, a task central to good source interpretation in its legal and historical meanings. This care will be at the foundation of any good work on Cold War international law. But we should also press beyond ideologies and conflicts to other kinds of engagements and understandings.

Item Details

Item Type:Substantial Review
Keywords:cold war, international law
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:International and comparative law
Research Field:International criminal law
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in law and legal studies
UTAS Author:Clark, M (Mr Martin Clark)
ID Code:140487
Year Published:2020
Deposited By:Law
Deposited On:2020-08-24
Last Modified:2020-12-07

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