Order over Justice
: International Human Rights Norm Promotion by Western European States

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis offers a critical reinterpretation of the reasons why Western
European states promote International Human Rights Law (IHRL). The
argument is built on contributions from critical legal scholars and the English
School of International Relations, and it is presented as an alternative to both
normative cosmopolitanism and realist disbelief. The research looks at the
systemic or structural constraints inherent to the international legal system,
and argues that order trumps justice in Western European states’ promotion
of international human rights norms.
In essence, IHRL has evolved as a result of a tension between two forces: On
the one hand, a European understanding of international society, based on
order, the centrality of the state and a minimalist conception of human rights;
on the other hand, a civil society and UN-promoted, mostly Western,
particularly European and broader conception of human rights, based on
justice. Human rights norms emerge and develop when some states’ idea of
order meets with advocates’ idea of justice.
The thesis is theoretically situated in the milieu between solidarism and
pluralism, and claims that when it comes to explaining Western European
states’ promotion of IHRL, second-wave English Scholars are right to point
out that the world society is not only made out of nation-states. However,
these authors are too hasty in raising the profile of global justice as a policy
driver in the international system.
Methodologically speaking, the thesis applies a critical interpretation of state
practice (discourse and action), with a particular focus on Spain and the UK,
in relation to four norms at different degrees of settlement: a) the prohibition
of torture, b) ecocide, c) justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights,
and d) Responsibility to Protect.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorChristoph Meyer (Supervisor) & Philippa Webb (Supervisor)

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