IILJ Working Paper 2008/1 (History and Theory of International Law Series)

The Rhetoric of Eunomia

Euan MacDonald

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This paper presents a detailed analysis of Philip Allott’s 1991 work Eunomia: New Order for a New World. It begins by briefly framing the work in terms of what is here referred to as “the critical challenge” to international law, and suggests that one central goal of the text an attempted synthesis of the old opposition between philosophy and literature. It then sketches an outline of the manner in which his thesis is constructed – noting, in doing so, that despite the scope and complexity of the book, there is relatively little in the way of standard academic argument to be found therein. This leads on to the central focus of this paper: the manner in which Allott seeks to construct authority for the claims he makes and conclusions he reaches in the absence of such argumentation. To this end, the main bulk of the paper is concerned, in a manner influenced by theorists such as Chaïm Perelman and James Boyd White, with performing a critical analysis of the rhetorics of the work. It considers issues such as enacted dialectics; language; voice; metaphor; and technique; analysing each in turn for the way in which they function to bolster Allott’s otherwise nakedly – if eloquently – asserted claims. It concludes that, while the early promise of Eunomia is undoubtedly that of confronting the irreducible contradictions and aporia identified as inevitable in the critical challenge to international law, these themes are gradually worked out and ultimately usurped – in both the rhetorics and the surface meaning of the text – by those of transcendence, unity and systemic completion; the hallmarks of Allott’s mystification of society.