Author's Department

Law Department

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Trade, Law, and Development

Publication Date



In this paper, I outline the colonial structure of international law, and examine the short decline or suppression of its coloniality in the so-called ‘era of decolonisation’, then illustrate its resurgence in the modern neo-colonial order. PIL has split into two separate systems. One includes, and is justified by, the heroic tales of human rights and ‘Humanity’s Law’. The other is the actualised system of International Economic Law (IEL), an order driven by the need of the over-developed states to plunder the under-developed states’ resources and labour, to subsidise the luxury to which we have grown accustomed. One purports to be noble and just, but is ostentatiously weak; the other is ignoble and exploitative, but quietly powerful. They work in tandem with one another; the first functions by appearing to fail, the second operates so quietly that its very functioning is overlooked — hidden behind the spectacular failure of its partner. These are usually analysed as PIL and IEL, respectively. I call them Harry Potter and the Gluttonous Machine.

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