Seminar on Nervous States in the Age of Anger and the Collapse of International Law by Professor Anthony Carty

25 November, 2019

News Headlines at present declare the abrogation of arms limitation treaties, the invasion and annexation of territories, foreign interventions in civil wars, with attempts at regime change and consequent massive
humanitarian and refugee crises. Increasing nationalist tensions challenge worldwide the idea of a global order. In addition there are intensifying trade wars and the ticking bomb of climate change.

Historians, sociologists and literary critics offer long term analyses of how world society has arrived at this point. In   Nervous States, How Feeling Took Over the World   (2018) William Davies traces the history of the authority of knowledge and expertise since Hobbes and Newton, to demonstrate that irrational passions have undermined the professional management of state and inter-state affairs. In   The Age of Anger   (2017) Pankaj Mishra shows how contradictions of the European Enlightenment, having now reached all corners of the Earth, are rendering the world  ungovernable. The distance between expectations and existing structures of power has become intolerable. A counter narrative comes from Frank Furedi, in   How Fear Works, A Culture of Fear in the 21st Century   (2018). Contemporary crises are largely a self-induced collective hysteria, an avoidable state of individual panic, even if the malaise affects every aspect of contemporary public life and goes back till the 1920s. What responses can lawyers make to these trends? Do they even understand them? Are the cultural, moral and intellectual foundations of Law able to relieve the diagnoses provided by other professions? Are the ideals of the international rule of law, human rights, liberal, democratic (sometimes social) market economy and peaceful settlement of disputes capable of translation into effective shaping of world society? Or is the present world unrest at least in part an indicator of the exhaustion of what Montesquieu described as   The Spirit of the Laws?

About the speaker:

Professor Anthony Carty is a Professor of International Law at the Beijing Institute of Technology. He was previously a Professor of Law at Tsinghua University, Hong Kong University and Aberdeen University. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of Paris I and II, The Free University of Berlin and the Autonomous University of Madrid. He is the author of   The Decay of International Law   (1986, MUP reprinted 2019 with a new introduction),   The Philosophy of International Law   (EUP, 2007, 2017) and with Janne Nijman, coeditor of   Morality and Responsibility of Rulers, European and Chinese Origins of a Rule of Law as Justice for World Order   (OUP 2018).