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The 'imbroglio' of ecocide: A political economic analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Emily Jones



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


In this article we adopt a political economic lens to analyse the revival of the concept of ecocide in present international legal scholarship and practice. The current campaign to codify the crime of ecocide under international criminal law represents the epitome of a problem-solving approach, which conceives of the law as external to society and as a corrective to its evils. Yet, a large body of critical literature has drawn attention to the constitutive role of international law and to the problems with its depoliticised approach when it comes to tackling global injustices. We build upon this diverse scholarship to illuminate how the technical, acontextual, and ahistorical legal debate on the codification of ecocide ends up normalising the violent structures of extractive capitalism and its hierarchies. Further, we situate the proposed crime within the wider context of how international law regulates and constitutes the natural world. Drawing on critiques of sustainable development and of business and human rights discourse, we argue that the ‘imbroglio’ of ecocide, in its current legal definition, lies in presenting ecological preservation and devastation as simultaneously legitimate aims. The article ultimately raises the question of the role of international law in progressive political agendas, a question that could not be more pressing in times of entangled socio-ecological-economic disruptions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cusato E, Jones E

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Leiden Journal of International Law

Year: 2023

Volume: 37

Issue: 1

Pages: 42-61

Online publication date: 26/09/2023

Acceptance date: 27/06/2023

Date deposited: 28/06/2023

ISSN (print): 0922-1565

ISSN (electronic): 1478-9698

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0922156523000468


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