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Research Seminar - Dr Robert Knox, Liverpool University

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Location: Room S2.12 Law School, Social Sciences Building

Title: Imperialism, Hypocrisy and the Politics of International Law

Abstract:International lawyers typically dismiss accusations of ‘hypocrisy’ as rhetoric. By contrast, this paper argues that such accusations are central to international law. The article begins by examining the centrality of accusations of hypocrisy to the 2014 Crimea crisis, noting the crucial juridical function of accusations of hypocrisy. In order to unpack this, the paper turns to political theorists of hypocrisy, who see a structural link between ‘modernity’ and ‘hypocrisy’. Modern societies lack an overarching set of agreed ‘values’, making accusations of hypocrisy a crucial political currency. At the same time, the contradiction between formal legal equality and social and economic inequality in modern society constantly generates hypocritical behaviour. The paper demonstrates that we can only fully understand this situation in light of the social relations of capitalism. The article charts historically how the unfolding of capitalist social relations gave rise to different configurations of hypocrisy within international law. In this way, accusations of hypocrisy were articulated in the context of colonialism and its associated practices of racialisation. At the same time, however, colonised states attempted to seize upon accusations of hypocrisy for their own liberatory ends. The paper demonstrates that the close connection between such accusations, capitalism and racialisation ultimately limited their emancipatory potential. The paper concludes by asking how such accusations might be deployed in politically useful ways’

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