Barbara Stark

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"Never again!" was the crie de coeur of the world leaders after World War 1. "Never again" would they tolerate death camps, mass graves, or other crimes against humanity. Several genocides later, however, the phrase has become ironic. Innumerable international as well as national laws have been enacted, but they have failed to stop the carnage. This was the subject of a recent symposium in the American Journal of International Law, which assembled some of the leading minds in international law to analyze the problem from seven different perspectives. Postmodern International Law (PIL) was not among them. As this Article explains, the omission of PIL was fitting because PIL did not fit PIL eschews the often esoteric language of international law in order to reach a broader audience, including those who "violate human dignity" and those who harbor the violators. In addition, PIL is skeptical about the kind of totalizing theory encouraged by the symposium format. Rather, PIL situates the problem in the spatial and historic contexts of globalization. These are the contexts-fragmented, chaotic, transient-in which the law must function If law is to function effectively, as the late Yale law professor Robert Cover explained it must be accompanied by violence, by the political will to impose the law through force. Political will in turn depends on stories that breathe life into the law and give it meaning. Political will has been elusive on the international level, in part, because the modern story that began with Nuremberg is no longer compelling. This Article explains how the modern story lost its luster and why the difficult, complex; and even contradictory stories of PIL are more likely to generate the political will necessary to address violations of human dignity in a postmodern world.

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