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Favourite Readings 2018: Revisiting the Postwar Moment

Published on December 21, 2018        Author: 

Editor’s note: Continuing a tradition started by Isabel Feichtner a few years ago, EJIL’s Review Editor, Christian J. Tams, invited members of the EJIL board to offer short reflections on their favourite books of the year 2018. In the following days we will present some selections here on EJIL:Talk! They comprise a wide range of books, from (a few) doctrinal legal texts, to (many more) historical accounts and works of fiction. Unlike in many official book prize competitions, 2018 does not necessarily stand for the year of publication; rather, board members were asked to list books they read or re-read this year, and found inspiring or enjoyable. Today we bring you 2018 favourite reads from Doreen Lustig

In 2018, the international legal world as we know it has faced deep and significant challenges, including the attack on democracies and the rise of authoritarianism, the preference of both the American and Chinese governments for bilateralism over multilateralism or the destabilizing of global economic institutions. How and what does one read at a time like this? Most of the books I survey here revisit the history of the postwar moment and its hopes for a future that is now our present. It may not be surprising that in this moment of bewilderment we return to history and early beginnings, searching for answers. We look for parallels in the past. We look more closely at the key architects of international law and how their ideas shaped (or not) the legal reality over time. We examine whose ideas took prominence and why. We search for the roads not taken. This is by no means a comprehensive list for such an inquiry, but I hope that reading these books may offer some important clues in working with these questions.

Let me open with a book on the transition from the interwar era of minority rights to the postwar era. James Loeffler’s Rooted Cosmopolitans: Jews and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Yale University Press, 2018) examines the tension between Jewish lawyers’ great hopes for a postwar human rights order, one that would take seriously the plight and persecution of minority groups, and their limited influence on its content and design. Read the rest of this entry…

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