Oxford University Press 2020 - Law and Global Governance Series

Veiled Power: International Law and the Private Corporation 1886-1981

Doreen Lustig

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This book challenges the ‘failure’ narrative and presents an alternative reading of the history of international law and business corporations. It does so by challenging the public/private distinction that animates the ‘failure’ argument in the context of business corporations in international law.

This book is devoted to four in-depth case studies ranging from the interwar period to the 1980s: the case of The Firestone Company in Liberia; the Industrialist cases at Nuremberg; the Anglo Iranian Oil Company case; and the rise of the multinational corporation as a subject of ‘regulatory concern’ in international law in the 1970s. Though each of their time, these case studies all show how international lawyers engaged directly with private business corporations in a variety of regulatory contexts such as labour, international criminal law, antitrust, natural resources, human rights, and investment. Furthermore, they demonstrate that the power conferred by the international legal order on corporations cannot be fully appreciated if we think of corporations merely through the prism of private law. Indeed, the history of the international law of the business corporation is neither a history of the global corporate actor nor a distinct international law of the corporation, but rather the history of the interplay between these legal fields. The rights of corporations are supported by duties and arrangements on the part of states and international organizations, all of which are regulated by international law.