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49 Va. J. Int'l L. 61 (2008)


For the first time in scholarly literature, this article traces the history of modern international law from the perspective of the constructivist theory of international relations. Constructivism is one of the leadings schools of thought in international relations today. This theory posits that state preferences emerge from social construction and that state interests are evolving rather than fixed. Constructivism further argues that international norms have a life cycle composed of three stages: norm emergence, norm acceptance (or norm cascades), and norm internalization. As such, constructivism treats international law as a dynamic process in which norm entrepreneurs interact with state actors to advance new norms with the objective of states adopting and ultimately internalizing those norms. Given the importance of this school of thought, it is surprising that scholars have yet to map the history of modern international law from the constructivist perspective. This article is the first part of a larger project that attempts to do just that, applying the constructivist theory of international relations to argue that Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have been profoundly instrumental as norm entrepreneurs in the emergence, cascading and internalization of international law norms. Examining the history of modern international law through a constructivist lens reveals that international law has had several distinct periods, each with its own particular narrative. The Pacifist Period (1901-1913) began with a vision of the abolition of war and the peaceful settlement of international disputes. The Statesman Period (1917-1938) built on that foundation with fragile institutions, imperfectly constructed to secure and maintain international peace and security. It also saw the emergence of more lasting international norms combating the unlawful use of force. The Humanitarian Period (1944-1959) established a more effective international architecture and crystallized international humanitarian norms regarding the use of force. The Human Rights Period (1960-1986) emphasized protection of the individual as one of the central pillars of international law. Finally, the Democracy Period (1987-Present) witnessed the triumph of democracy at the end of the Cold War, with widespread recognition that only the democratic form of government was suitable for realizing deeper yearnings of international peace and justice. international law, international relations, constructivism, Nobel Peace Prize, peace, pacificism, human rights, humanitarian, democracy, history


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