Critical International Law: Post-realism, Post-colonialism and Transnationalism

Edited by Prabhakar Singh and Benoît Mayer

Scholars have thought of international law critically for some time now. This book reflects three broad movements within critical international law scholarship. Postrealism, to begin with, addresses the changing ways of conceiving the tensions between international laws and international politics. Postcolonialism then records and analysis doubts about international law’s Eurocentricsm and its subsequent universalization. Finally, transnationalism sees international law not as interstate law, or only as states as the primary subject of law, but appreciates the tremendous power of private actors, NGOs, and non-state actors that reshape the doctrine and function of international law. This book reintroduces critical international law to a broader audience. It wrestles with the summary rejection of ‘the crits’. To the subject of international law, internalizing criticism, the book argues, is vital.


Alexander Somek:

“Anyone interested in the critical study of public international law will have to use this book.”

David Kennedy:

“In this fascinating volume, a new generation of global scholars reassess three well-established traditions for revitalizing the law that rules the world.”

Martti Koskenniemi:

“This is jurisprudence as it should be: wide-ranging, sophisticated, up-to-date and committed not to serve the ideological goals of the institutions it dissects.”

Ratna Kapur:

“…a vital contribution to the teaching and understanding of international law.”

Table of contents

  • Simon Chesterman, Foreword
  • Prabhakar Singh and Benoît Mayer, Introduction

Section I Postrealism

  • Hengameh Saberi, Descendants of Realism?
  • John R. Morss, Riddle of the Sands
  • Rossana Deplano, The Welfarist Approach to International Law
  • Prabhakar Singh, Revisiting the Role of International Courts and Tribunals?

Section II Postcolonialism

  • Antony Anghie, Towards a Postcolonial International Law
  • José-Manuel Barreto, A Universal History of Infamy
  • Mark Toufayan, ‘Suffering’ the Paradox of Rights?
  • Benoît Mayer, The ‘Magic Circle’ of Rights Holders

Section III Transnationalism

  • Frédéric Mégret, The Rise and Fall of ‘International Man’
  • Owen McIntyre, The Human Right to Water as a ‘Creature’ of Global Administrative Law
  • René Urueña, Of Precedents and Ideology
  • Prabhakar Singh and Sonja Kübler, Constitutionalism and Pluralism
  • Sébastien Jodoin and Katherine Lofts, What’s Critical about Critical International Law?


Ratna Kapur (2016) 6(2) Asian Journal of International Law 381-82:

“…the collection makes an important contribution to the relevance of critical international law, especially within an Asian context where the relationship between markets, non-state actors, and post-colonial states has been a feature of global governance for the past five hundred years.”

Sai Ramani Garimella (2015) 55(3) Indian Journal of International Law 455-458:

“Critical International Law makes noteworthy reading for a few significant reasons. Foremost on the list is the novelty of the thematic presentation. An interesting facet of this edited collection is that while the authors have placed value in the existence of an international order, they suggest reordering its foundations whilst retaining its functionality, a challenge that needs to be approached from constitutional and pluralist perspectives together. Fascinating enough is the dynamic role that it envisages for international law scholars – an activist lawyer at the service of humanity. Singh makes a passionate plea for nations to invest in their international law scholarship to ensure that national perspectives get heard through the intelligentsia. Critical International Law introduces novel ethical dimensions to scholarly work.”

Ashwita Ambast, (2015) 11(1) Socio-legal review 133-143:

“…the novelty and richness of perspectives presented in the compilation make Critical International Law a compelling read.”