The Political Theology of Trade Law: The Scholastic Contribution

Martti Koskenniemi

in From Bilateralism to Community Interest

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199588817
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725272 | DOI:
The Political Theology of Trade Law: The Scholastic Contribution

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In his massive opus on legal and political theory, the Jesuit Francisco Suárez (1548–1617) addresses at great length the distinction between natural law and the jus gentium (law of nations). The latter, he suggests, is deprived of the kind of absolute necessity that characterizes the former and should rather be understood in instrumental terms. While natural law is always the same and never varies, the jus gentium contains those legal provisions that have been historically adopted so as to contribute to the fulfilment of the necessity embodied in natural law in the context of actual human communities. Among institutions of jus gentium, Suárez lists the freedom of trade. This chapter revisits the ideological ancestry of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the Christian narrative of the power of humans over things (and thus on each other) through the worldwide application of dominium proprietatis — the right of free use and exchange of private property.

Keywords: Francisco Suárez; natural law; jus gentium; free trade; dominium proprietatis; private property; World Trade Organization

Chapter.  12618 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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