Against Objectivism

Andrew Lang

in World Trade Law after Neoliberalism

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199592647
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731396 | DOI:
Against Objectivism

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Part II of the book aims to provide a better account than currently exists of the precise role that neoliberal thought has played in the transformation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization's legal system. This chapter performs some necessary theoretical ground-clearing, to prepare the way for this account. One of the reasons for the lack of an adequate narrative of the trade regime's neoliberal turn has been the dominance of objectivist theories of social action in mainstream scholarship on trade law and trade politics since at least the late 1980s. Such theories radically mistake the nature and significance of the ideational dimension of trade politics, sometimes even dismissing it altogether, and, as a result have impoverished understanding of the historical evolution of the trade regime for about two decades. Since the claim in Part II is that neoliberal thought transformed the ‘collective imagination’ of professionals involved in the field of international trade governance — that is, the collective symbolic order according to which they interpret the world around them, and understand their professional role within it — it is necessary to recall and rehearse some of the basic theoretical moves, first made some decades ago, which justify attention to the ideational dimension of trade politics. For those who are already comfortable with the claim that cognitive frameworks necessarily structure the conduct of trade politics and trade law, Chapter 6 will seem basic. Its inclusion is nevertheless necessary as a result of the continued prevalence of objectivist thinking in the field of international trade law, and the consequent potential for misunderstanding of the arguments made in subsequent chapters.

Keywords: neoliberal thought; GATT; WTO; ideational dimension; World Trade Organization; trade regime; objectivist; trade law; trade politics

Chapter.  17007 words. 

Subjects: Public International Law

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