Home Articles posted by Heike Krieger

Populist Governments and International Law: A Rejoinder to Paul Blokker and Marcela Prieto Rudolphy

Published on January 27, 2020        Author: 


I am grateful to Paul Blokker and Marcela Prieto Rudolphy for their thoughtful replies to my article on “Populist Governments and International Law”. In that article, I inquire into the question as to how populist governments contribute with their argumentative strategies and governmental practices to current perceptions of a crisis of and related shifts in the international legal order. Identifying such shifts poses methodological challenges. To address these challenges, I have relied on a formal conception of populism, focussed on some of the basic rules and structures of the international legal order and used the heuristic tool of ideal types to assess populist governments’ stance to international law. In particular, the criticism by Marcela Prieto Rudolphy takes an issue with my approach and thereby reflects three wide-spread strands of doubt about how to evaluate structural shifts: a too high level of abstraction of categories applied, the claim that the international law does (no longer) represent a unified object of observation and the use of ideal types as a heuristic instrument.

Prieto Rudolphy doubts that it is fruitful to reflect upon “a populist approach to international law” and, instead, advocates to examine “populist approaches to this and that area of international law”. First, she is sceptical whether the analytical category of populism as such is useful, if it does not take into account the specific understanding of “the people” on which different emanations of populism are said to rely. She assumes that these different understandings will lead to “a range of positions” which cannot be reconciled in one analytical category. She emphasises that turning to “the underlying ideologies” (e.g. left-wing vs. right-wing populism) “would be a welcome change”. Paul Blokker agrees with her in that “varieties of populism need to be taken into account”. While it may well be a valuable contribution to analyse the approach of specific populist governments to specific branches of international law, I disagree with the exclusiveness of Prieto Rudolphy’s claim, not least because evaluating structural shifts in the international legal order requires a multitude of different methodological approaches. Read the rest of this entry…


Trumping International Law? Implications of the 2016 US presidential election for the international legal order

Published on January 3, 2017        Author: 

Any assumptions about the implications of the 2016 US presidential election for international law are premature and tentative. There is no proper foreign policy programme against which one could evaluate the future policy of the new administration. We know from Trump’s announcements and from a foreign policy speech of 27 April 2016 that he opposes the Paris Agreement, the WTO, NAFTA, TTP and TTIP as well as the nuclear deal with Iran. Thus, political analysts immediately described the election of Trump as ‘the beginning of a new and darker global order’ and announced the end of the post-World War II order. International lawyers assume that a post-human rights agenda lies ahead. Do we finally face the end of the liberal international order and globalization more generally?

Of course, there are also other voices: those who compare a possible withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement to its non-participation in the Kyoto Protocol; those who hold that globalization is anyway inevitable; those who stress that populism in Latin America, where opposition to globalization was very strong, is in decline again; those who compare Donald Trump with Ronald Reagan; and those who count on new technologies and the young generation. If it was just for the election of Trump I would probably share the idea that his policy may only represent a temporary slump in the overall progressive development of the international legal order. However, the symbolism of Trump’s election is not an isolated incident but fits into a more general pattern. Certain phenomena indicate that we currently observe a crisis of international law of unusual proportions which requires us to reassess the state and role of law in the global order Read the rest of this entry…