Empire Has Its Own Hurdles: Exploring the Nature of Exceptionalism and Its Consequences for International Law and Multilateral Decision-Making


While it is increasingly becoming a platitude that exceptionalism exists in international law, little is being said about the nature, degrees of this exceptionalism and their differential consequences on the international legal system.

In my effort to bridge what I see as an oversight, this paper will seek to show how contemporary exceptionalist practices are creating a fault in the international legal order which will in turn provide a basis for others to argue for an overall reformulation of rules i.e. actions in contravention of the multilateral international legal framework would no longer need to be justified by manipulative rule interpretation but by a clear challenge to the very morals and standards on which they are built. The friction between these unilateral ambitions and the widespread opposition to incidents along the lines witnessed in Kosovo and Iraq (which perhaps indicative of a larger disaffection with the option of being exceptional as a matter of right) will not only undermine the interests of the international community but will also prove to be against the interests of even the most exceptional hegemon (which will ultimately find it impossible to sustain its position of global influence in the face of rapidly fading trust and legitimacy).

Thus, conforming to the Charter paradigm and keeping state exceptionalism tied within multilateral restrictions is not only in the larger interest of global peace and security but also in the specific interest of any state seeking to retain its position and mandate as a global peacekeeper. In the course of this paper, I will seek to explore the possibilities that various kinds of exceptionalism opens up for the future of the international order and argue that the ends will satisfy neither the goals of any state(/s) nor the international community as a whole.


Comparative and Foreign Law | International Law | Jurisprudence | Organizations Law

Date of this Version

September 2006