The Last Treatise: Project and Person (Reflections on Martti Koskenniemi's "From Apology to Utopia")
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CitationDavid W. Kennedy, The Last Treatise: Project and Person (Reflections on Martti Koskenniemi's "From Apology to Utopia"), 7 Ger. L. J. 982 (2006).
AbstractMartti Koskenniemi’s From Apology to Utopia is the most significant late 20th century English language monograph in the field of international law, and it is terrific to see it re-issued. The book offers a comprehensive reinterpretation of the doctrinal materials and intellectual history of the discipline. It became an instant classic in the analysis of law’s rhetorical structures, and it could well turn out to have been the last great original treatise in the international law field. It both synthesized the materials and demonstrated the impossibility of their being synthesized in a stable and intellectually coherent fashion. The treat in this re-issued edition is Martti’s new epilogue. In it, he reflects on what he was seeking to achieve in ways that will open the text to new readings while remaining, I think, true to the spirit of the initial project.
I felt very close to Martti’s original project. My own International Legal Structures pursued similar themes and Martti has been very kind in his acknowledgement of its influence. I was also trying to map the rhetorical patterns and argumentative structures in the field’s doctrinal corpus. From Apology to Utopia was also Martti’s dissertation and one of the most pleasurable intellectual conversations I have ever had took place in Turku on April 1, 1989 when I served as “opponent” to his promotion at the Turku Faculty of Law. It was thrilling to have a go at the details of his doctrinal history and hear his response. Did Vattel really mean that? Do the periods really break this way, or is there more continuity here, more discontinuity there? We argued about what he called “objectivism” and “indeterminacy” and about their significance. When From Apology to Utopia came out, I published a review that seems, in retrospect, to have failed to capture the book’s singular importance for me as a fellow-traveler in the project of rethinking the international law tradition. Simply put, it was...
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