It has become cliché to describe our current political predicament as the condition of post-truth, characterised by a culture of denial of facts and the consequent ease with which political leaders can get away with outright lies or misrepresentations. But the concept of “post-truth” leaves the impression that there was a pre-post-truth era when things were different, which should invite reflection. As Hannah Arendt once observed, “no one has ever counted truthfulness among the political virtues.”
The objective of this lunch briefing is to show that those who decry the post-truth condition, and international lawyers who are rightly alarmed by the attitude of Vladimir Putin or the Trump administration toward international law miss the mark for the same reason. The exclusive focus on instances of non-conformity of a statement or conduct to established standards like truth or international law could never fully capture what is happening. What we need is take notice that, as the novelist JM Coetzee once pointed out, “the old powers of shame have been abolished”, and realise what operating in an age of post-shame means for international law.
Fuad Zarbiyev holds a PhD in International Law (summa cum laude) from the Graduate Institute, an LL.M. from Harvard Law School and the Diploma of the Hague Academy of International Law. Previously, he was a Global Research Fellow at New York University School of Law and worked as an associate attorney and counsel with the New York office of the international law firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP. He is the recipient of the James Crawford prize awarded for the best article published in Journal of International Dispute Settlement in 2012. His research interests include the politics and sociology of international law and institutions, treaty interpretation, transnational regulatory processes, international judicial behavior, investment arbitration, human rights as well as philosophy, critical theory and post-structuralist discourse analysis as applied to international law.