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Lunch Talk by Prof. Tzouvala on “Aggression, Political Economy, and International Law: Missed Opportunities or Structural Restraints?

April 16, 2024

12:30 pm - 1:15 pm

Austin Hall; 100 Classroom - North

LECTURE ON “AGGRESSION, POLITICAL ECONOMY, AND INTERNATIONAL LAW: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES OR STRUCTURAL RESTRAINTS?”: This talk is preoccupied with the following question: how can we understand international law’s permissiveness vis-a-vis the vast economic and financial infrastructure of modern warfare? Otherwise put, I will explore how and why international law ended up having very little to say about the existence and constant expansion of economic structures that directly facilitate warfare, such as gigantic “defense” budgets, the entanglement between modern finance and war, or the militarization of an ever-increasing number of industries. In particular, I intend to examine if this was a contingent development or whether it tells us something more profound about the inability of international law to conceptualize coherently questions of force, coercion, and coercion under capitalism. To answer this question, I will revisit the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. This period witnessed ambitious efforts to outlaw and criminalize the entanglement between capitalist economic power and aggressive war. Brazil and Bolivia attempted to introduce expansive conceptualizations of “force” in the UN Charter in an attempt to outlaw the weaponization of asymmetrical economic power between states. Their efforts were defeated. Similarly, the ambitious (and controversial) decision to charge German bankers and industrialists with crimes against peace in front of the International Military Tribunal (IMT) and Nuremberg Military Tribunal (NMT) were also largely unsuccessful. Drawing from these examples, my lecture will show that international law—as all modern, liberal systems—is structurally incapable of grasping, and therefore regulating, the mechanisms that transform the “ordinary” functions of capitalism into militarized economies and, ultimately, into open war.

This talk will take place on April 16, 2024 from 12:30 pm to 1:15 pm in Austin Hall 100 North (note: room change). Lunch will be provided.

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April 16, 2024, 12:30 pm - 1:15 pm

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