This is an archived version of the PW Sources newsletter from Saturday, January 13, 2024. Sign up to receive PW Sources directly to your inbox here.


This week, arguments were presented in South Africa’s proceedings against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The landmark case, whose initial results will not be clear for weeks, has placed international law and its voluntary institutions at the forefront of the assault on Gaza. 

A 2011 collection of essays by legal scholar MARTTI KOSKENNIEMI address the history of international law, its constitution as a professional community, and the theoretical battles over its status in the twenty-first century.

“The opposition between ‘realism’ and ‘idealism’ in respect to international law is only of limited usefulness. The labels invoke contrasting political sensibilities and different jurisprudential techniques that often merge into each other. Even the hardest realism reveals itself as a moral position (for example by highlighting the priority of the national interest) inasmuch as, ‘philosophically speaking, realism is unthinkable without the background of a prior idealistic position deeply committed to the universalism of the enlightenment and democratic political theory.’ On the other hand, any serious idealism is able to point to aspects of international reality that support it, and needs such reference in order to seem professionally credible. Many lawyers make a more ambitious defense of international law in terms of such practical effects. In their view, international law slowly socializes initially egoistic states into the law’s internationalist spirit. An alternative but parallel approach would be to characterize the system in terms of a ‘culture of civility’ shared by its administrators. Such an explanation resonates with international law’s emergence in the late nineteenth century as an aspect of optimistic evolutionism among elites of Europe and North America.”

+  Two further books: Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner’s The Limits of International Law, and Susan Marks’s The Riddle of All Constitutions.

+  “International law assumes juridical equality and unequal violence.” Link to China Miéville’s book Between Equal Rights. And link to Ntina Tzouvala’s history of international law, Capitalism as Civilization

+  A chapter by Dire Tladi on the role that the ICJ has played in developing international law. Link. And Noura Erakat and John Reynolds on the significance of South Africa’s case at the ICJ. Link.


Conscious Consumption 

In his job market paper, PhD candidate in economics at Stanford University LEVI BOXELL looks at the impact of companies taking public stances on social issues. 

From the paper:  

“We study the extent to which individuals’ consumption decisions are influenced by firms’ stances on controversial social issues and the implied incentives for firms to take such stances. We use transactions from a major payment card company to predict cardholders’ likely social alignment with firm stances and to quantify effects on consumption. The social stances taken by firms increase revenue on average, with significant heterogeneity across consumers and firm stances. Consumers most aligned with a firm’s social stance increase their consumption at the firm by 19 percent in the month following widely known social stance events, and consumers most opposed to the firm’s stance decrease their consumption by 11 percent. These diverging consumption responses attenuate over time but persist even a year later. Firms tend to take stances that align with their consumers’ and employees’ social preferences and that correlate with the firm’s ownership structure. Together our results show that consumers meaningfully respond to their social alignment with firms, and that this consumer response can incentivize profit-maximizing firms to engage with social issues.”

+ + +

+   “What is needed is a new monetary system: democratic choices about what serves as money, who can create it, and what its value is tied to.” New on PW, Pierre-Christian Fink reviews Jakob Feinig’s Moral Economies of MoneyLink

+   “In a late-night move on March 31, 2020 … the Indian federal government announced the gazette notification altering over 100 J&K laws and totally repealing about 30.” Anuradha Bhasin on India’s latest Supreme Court decision on Jammu and Kashmir. Link. And see Sehar Iqbal’s PW essay on legal autonomy and land reforms in the region. Link

+   Joseph Politano on the geography of US economic growth since Covid. Link.

+   “If Lula’s first and second terms created the illusion of painless progress, his third has all but removed social justice from the picture.” André Singer and Fernando Rugitsky on Lula’s return to power. Link

+   Adriana Calcagno on Raúl Prebisch, industrialization, and Latin American growth. Link

+   Shruti Sharma on tariff liberalization and women’s employment in India. Link.

+   “Nine years after its founding, the Bank folded, swallowing $1.2 million in deposits (approximately $29.6 million today) spread among roughly 61,000 individuals.” Ely Melchior Fair on the Freedman’s Bank Crisis. Link

+   More on vibecessions, from the FT. Link. (And link to the paper, by Jules van Binsbergen, Svetlana Bryzgalova, Mayukh Mukhopadhyay and Varun Sharma.)

+   “We show that firms that previously relied on EXIM support saw a 18% drop in global sales after the agency closed down, driven by a reduction in exports.” By Poorya Kabir, Adrien Matray, Karsten Müller & Chenzi Xu. Link.  

+   “Since its first appearance in the late 1800s, the reasons behind the rise of the Sicilian mafia have remained a puzzle. In this article, we argue that the mafia arose as a response to an exogenous shock in the demand for oranges and lemons, following Lind’s discovery in the late eighteenth century that citrus fruits cured scurvy. More specifically, we claim that mafia appeared in locations where producers made high profits from citrus production for overseas export. Operating in an environment with a weak rule of law, the mafia protected citrus production from predation and acted as intermediaries between producers and exporters. Using original data from a parliamentary inquiry in 1881–1886 on Sicilian towns, the Damiani Inquiry, we show that mafia presence is strongly related to the production of oranges and lemons.” By Arcangelo Dimico, Alessia Isopi, and Ola Olsson. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations: editorial@jainfamilyinstitute.org

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