Monday, June 6, 2016

Coates, "Legalist Empire: International Law and American Foreign Relations in the Early Twentieth Century"

New from Oxford University Press: Legalist Empire: International Law and American Foreign Relations in the Early Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press), by former guest blogger Benjamin Allen Coates (Wake Forest University). A description from the Press:
America's empire expanded dramatically following the Spanish-American War of 1898. The United States quickly annexed the Philippines and Puerto Rico, seized control over Cuba and the Panama Canal Zone, and extended political and financial power throughout Latin America. This age of empire, Benjamin Allen Coates argues, was also an age of international law. Justifying America's empire with the language of law and civilization, international lawyers-serving simultaneously as academics, leaders of the legal profession, corporate attorneys, and high-ranking government officials-became central to the conceptualization, conduct, and rationalization of US foreign policy.

Just as international law shaped empire, so too did empire shape international law. Legalist Empire shows how the American Society of International Law was animated by the same notions of "civilization" that justified the expansion of empire overseas. Using the private papers and published writings of such figures as Elihu Root, John Bassett Moore, and James Brown Scott, Coates shows how the newly-created international law profession merged European influences with trends in American jurisprudence, while appealing to elite notions of order, reform, and American identity. By projecting an image of the United States as a unique force for law and civilization, legalists reconciled American exceptionalism, empire, and an international rule of law. Under their influence the nation became the world's leading advocate for the creation of an international court.

Although the legalist vision of world peace through voluntary adjudication foundered in the interwar period, international lawyers-through their ideas and their presence in halls of power-continue to infuse vital debates about America's global role
A few blurbs:
"Why do states comply with international law, to the extent that they do? Benjamin Coates offers a new and compellingly argued analysis of the role of international law in global politics. His carefully researched history of the key roles of international lawyers themselves injects the study of the culture of professionalism and politics of empire into an often poorly understood era in US history. Legalist Empire offers a fresh interpretation of the interaction of law and the modern state." -- Elizabeth Borgwardt

"Benjamin Coates brings law into the center of the history of the United States role in the world in this important and carefully crafted book. American global power was conceptualized and understood in part through law, he argues. In this way, American empire and international law were not oppositional, but flourished together. Highly recommended." -- Mary L. Dudziak
More information is available here.

Hat tip: Clara Altman