Excerpted From: Robert Knox, International Law, Race, and Capitalism: A Marxist Perspective, 117 AJIL Unbound 55 (2023) (25 Footnotes) (Full Document)


RobertKnoxThe Marxist tradition is a crucial voice in the global anti-racist movement. Marxists were at the forefront of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements, with those movements taking up Marxist concepts and deploying them to understand capitalism, race, and colonialism. Yet, these Marxist voices did not reflect systematically on international law. This essay attempts to remedy this neglect and understand what anti-racist and Third Worldist Marxists can offer international legal thought. It begins with a discussion of the typical (liberal) approach to racism in international law. It then explores how Marxists have understood the relationship between racism and capitalism, arguing that this fundamentally impacts upon international law. The essay concludes with an exploration of how these dynamics have played out in international law.

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This essay has demonstrated that anti-racist and Third Worldist Marxisms can shed light on international law's relationship to racism. Rather than opposition, or even contingency, it has shown international law's deep connection with racism. It has done this through demonstrating the linkages between processes of racialization, international law, and the spread of global capitalism on a world stage. This analysis fundamentally undermines claims that international law might save us from the evils of racism.

Senior Lecturer, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.