PUBLISHED:November 17, 2014

Power Shifts in International Law: Structural Realignment and Substantive Pluralism

William Burke-White Lecture Burke-White Lecture 1/22

Thursday, January 22
12:30 pm | Room 3037
Duke Law School

Please click here for the webcast.

William Burke-White, the Richard Perry Professor and Inaugural Director of the Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania and Deputy Dean and Professor of Law at Penn Law, will give a talk titled "Power Shifts in International Law: Structural Realignment and Substantive Pluralism."  This lecture is sponsored by the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security and the Center for International & Comparative Law.  Lunch will be served.

For more information, including a copy of his paper, please contact Ali Prince.

Dr. Anne Gallagher, Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), an international civil servant, legal practitioner, teacher, and scholar, will give a talk titled "From Peacekeepers to Slave Traders: A Lawyer's Journey to the United Nations and Beyond."  This lecture is co-sponsored by the International Human Rights Clinic, the Center for International and Comparative Law and the Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.  Lunch will be served.

For more information, please contact Ali Prince.

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For most of the past sixty years, the United States and Europe have led, independently and collectively, the international legal system. Yet, the rise of the BRICs over the past decade has caused a profound transformation of global politics. Professor Burke-White examines the implications of this redistribution of power for international law. While international lawyers have long debated the ability of law to constrain state behavior, he shifts the debate from the power of law to the role of power within international law. He will first advance a structural argument that the diffusion, disaggregation, and issue-specific asymmetries in the distribution of power are giving rise to a multi-hub structure for international law, distinct from past structures such as bipolarity and multipolarity. This multi-hub structure increases pluralism within the international legal system. It also creates downward pressure on international legal processes to migrate from the global level toward a number of flexible, issue-specific subsystems. Professor Burke-White will then proceed to demonstrate that the anticipated pluralism is emerging at three substantive tension points as some rising powers articulate distinct preferences with respect to sovereignty, legitimacy, and the role of the state in economic development. At each of these tension points, rising powers are reasserting the preeminence of the state in international law, leading to a gradual turning away from the individualization of international law championed by the US and Europe back toward the Westphalian origins of the international legal system. Notwithstanding this turn, the United States stands to benefit from the new multi-hub structure of international law.


William Burke-WhiteWilliam Burke-White is the Richard Perry Professor and Inaugural Director of the Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania and Deputy Dean and Professor of Law at Penn Law.  Considered an expert on international law and global governance, he served in the Obama Administration from 2009-2011 on Secretary Clinton’s Policy Planning Staff, providing the Secretary direct policy advice on multilateral diplomacy and international institutions. He was principal drafter of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), Secretary Clinton’s hallmark foreign policy and institutional reform effort. Professor Burke-White has written extensively in the fields of international law and institutions, with focus on international criminal and international economic law. His work has addressed issues of post-conflict justice; the International Criminal Court; international human rights, and international arbitration. His current research explores gaps in the global governance system and the challenges of international legal regulation in a world of rising powers and divergent interests. In 2008 he received the A. Leo Levin Award and in 2007 the Robert A. Gorman award for Excellence in Teaching.