International Law as insulation: The case of the World Bank in the Decolonization era

Dimitri Van Den Meerssche*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article maps out how (international) legal concepts and norms were employed during the inter-institutional struggle between the United Nations and the World Bank in the decolonization era. The first contribution is historiographical. Drawing on material from the Bank's (oral) archives, the article gives an original account of the ways in which the organization bypassed the universalist aspirations that were gaining a foothold in the UN's democratic bodies. Secondly, the paper retraces how this particular event gave rise to a clash between opposing imaginaries of international legal order, where axiological aspirations voiced by states from the Global South were ultimately frustrated by a functionalist understanding of international (institutional) law that justified the Bank's institutional insulation. Finally, the paper aims to provide a modest methodological contribution to the field of international institutional law- A doctrinal discipline that traditionally pays little empirical attention to the historical and sociological performativity of concrete legal interventions. Keywords

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-484
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of the History of International Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • apartheid
  • colonization
  • performativity
  • United Nations
  • World Bank


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