IILJ Working Paper 2020/1 (InfraReg Series)

Infrastructure and InfraReg: On Rousing the International Law ‘Wizards of Is’

Benedict Kingsbury

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Physical, informational, and now digital infrastructure features throughout nation-state consolidation and imperial extension, in war preparedness and war logistics, in resource extraction and energy capture and transit, in each quantum step in economic globalisation, in mass migrations and religious missions, in the global scaling of finance and financialisation, the global digital economy, artificial intelligence and robots, in economic development strategies and China’s vast Belt and Road Initiative. International law has largely aligned with these enterprises, and has seemed not effectively to address massive anthropocenic degradation, AI, new biotech, and the human and planetary consequences of extractive capitalism. Science and Technology Studies (STS), and work extending from Bruno Latour and Susan Leigh Star to governance-by-prototype and ‘new materialism’, has generated rich insights about infrastructure. These are being extended to ‘infrastructure as regulation’ (the InfraReg project). This paper explores implications for reinvigorating deliberative forward-planning international law projects to address technologically-driven transformation, that follow from ‘thinking infrastructurally’.