The politics of self-defence: Beyond a legal understanding of international norms

Mateja Peter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This contribution considers an alternative approach to the research on the use of force, a field that has been largely dominated by internaSStional legal scholars. I argue or application of an evolutionary approach to international (legal) norms, one that complements current legal approaches and moves the discussion of norms beyond their dichotomous legal/illegal understanding. This kind of research highlights the role of politics in international law and allows us to determine factors influencing dissemination O1f international norms. Through a study of seven post-Second World War cases, I trace the development of both narrow and expanded notion of preemptive self-defence and conclude that while ascertaining legality of specific actions is vital for understanding established international law, one cannot talk about radical breaks in development of the law on the use of force. The expanded concept is in fact a product of the evolution of (societal) norms on self-defence and an accumulation of previous successful challenges in metanorms on the use of force.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-264
Number of pages20
JournalCambridge Review of International Affairs
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2011


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