Decolonising International Law

Development, Economic Growth and the Politics of Universality

Decolonising International Law

The universal promise of contemporary international law has long inspired countries of the Global South to use it as an important field of contestation over global inequality. Taking three central examples, Sundhya Pahuja argues that this promise has been subsumed within a universal claim for a particular way of life by the idea of 'development'. As the horizon of the promised transformation and concomitant equality has receded ever further, international law has legitimised an ever-increasing sphere of intervention in the Third World. The post-war wave of decolonisation ended in the creation of the developmental nation-state, the claim to permanent sovereignty over natural resources in the 1950s and 1960s was transformed into the protection of foreign investors, and the promotion of the rule of international law in the early 1990s has brought about the rise of the rule of law as a development strategy in the present day.


"Decolonising International Law is an excellent addition to the repertoire of critical approaches to international law. Pahuja adds to this growing literature with one of the best critical accounts of the post-World War II international economic order and how its twin concepts of development and economic growth have shaped a new ruling rationality."
James Thuo Gathii, American Journal of International Law

"Pahuja's work traces the manner of law’s metamorphosis under their prescription into an unresponsive and fragmented network of power. Development, the new God of our secular age, has subsumed the critical promise of international law for genuine inclusivity and justice. This important and timely book is thoroughly researched, methodically written, and both instructive and convincing."
Muin Boase and Mansur Boase, European Journal of International Law

"This book is a critical, thought-provoking and well-written account of how the post-Second World War international law and institutions have been used by the West (an imagined community itself) to construct and impose a new rational truth based on particular values, norms and socio-political organisations that were defined as universal … The core part of the book is a very lucid analysis of three cases in which relevant concepts and processes defended by the Third World with a potentially destabilizing nature, in the end were captured by the West and turned into instruments at its service rather than as catalysers of change."
Felipe Gómez Isa, Peacebuilding


Winner, 2012 Certificate of Merit in a Specialized Area of International Law, American Society of International Law