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Interrogating Our Multiple Crises hosts Prof Martti Koskenniemi
Thu 23 March 2017, 17:00 – 19:00 CET
Sovereignty and Property: Historical Background of a Contemporary Debate
The recent debates on investment arbitration have thrown to focus the complex relationship between sovereign power and the power of property. In this talk Martti Koskenniemi examines the relations of sovereignty and property from a historical perspective. He argues that the surge of interest in the history of international law in the past few years has been quite one-sidedly focused on imperial expansion and sovereign power. In order to comprehend the way European power has expanded into the world, attention ought to be directed on the relations of public and private actors. The legal specificity of European power lies in the way it has always combined public law sovereignty with the powers of private ownership. Public power has often rested on the privileges of ownership – while the international expansion of ownership has been regularly supported by public diplomacy and military force. And yet, the two have also frequently clashed against each other. However their relations have been organized, still, Koskenniemi argues that only by considering both it is possible to have a realistic image of the role of law in the international world. Sovereignty and property are the yin and yang of international power.