Resistance and Change in Form and Content of International Law: A Third World Perspective on Commodity Form Theory of International Law

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Can Marxists, especially in the Third World, use international law for progressive social change? Responding to the Soviet Union's context and its jurisprudential challenges in constructing socialism, Pashukanis's seminal work on commodity form theory is nihilistic, assuming the very nature of form of international law as bourgeois with limited possibilities of radical change as its new content. European Marxism, on the other hand, in its context of revolutionary defeat and consequent postmodernist pessimism of cultural Marxism, either relies on Pashukanis's nihilistic position or a pragmatist and realist posture, insisting on staying within the law's bourgeois form and being content with social democracy. As opposed to this, Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) scholars, while exploring the imperialist nature of international law and representing one variant of Third World Marxism, have been more optimistic, wanting to use international law to restrain and shield against powerful Western states, i.e., they believe that the content of Third World resistance can change the form of international law. This article deconstructs this class “content” of international law in the understanding of TWAIL and shows the postcolonial Third World states, and even in the yet to be independent states, were dominated by their dependent local elite, which had compromised by the ex-colonizers and had started blocking radical structural changes in Third World. Soon, the target of imperialism and the Third World elite became radical movements in the Third World, and this struggle of the marginalized shaped international law. Therefore, relying on the radical tradition of Third World Marxism and taking the right of self-determination as an example, this article argues that both the content and form of international law were simultaneously used, subverted, and changed in a dialectical and dynamic way by the resistance of the people of the Third World.


Resistance, right of self-determination, Third World Marxism, Western Marxism, Soviet Official Marxism.


Muhammad Azeem, “Resistance and Change in Form and Content of International Law: A Third World Perspective on Commodity Form Theory of International Law”, Uluslararasi Iliskiler, Vol. 21, No 82, 2024, pp. 153-170, DOI:10.33458/uidergisi.1496712


Muhammad AZEEM Associate Professor, Shaikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore. E-Mail: [email protected]

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