British Council in partnership with The University of Warwick
Profiting from Disparity
About the Lecture:
In Law and beyond, proclamations about human equality are uttered piously. An unknown contingent in international relations just three generations ago, today, equality towers as the moral imperative of our time informing countless declarations, treaties, and covenants. Yet the chasms in standards of living between blocks of peoples grows steadily. In this talk, Dr al Attar considers what we can learn about global inequality and about international law from the standpoint of exploitation.
To date, international law has mostly limited discussions of exploitation to acts of slavery, trafficking, child and forced labour, and increasingly, environmental degradation. Labour relations on the whole and inequality are disconnected from exploitation altogether. It is not surprising that the link is rarely made. On one hand, cognitive dissonance keeps recognition at bay. Belief in meritocracy, for example, is alive and well. How the lottery of birth factors into this version of justice is rarely tackled. On the other hand, ideological legitimation is used to sanitise unequal outcomes: some may suffer, indeed, but this is necessary for the lifting of all boats. Particularly insidious here is the rhetorical paradox: while systemic advantages must be disaggregated (owing to merit), systemic disadvantages should be pooled into a collective cost for the good of the system.Asymmetry thus operates in service of the arrangement. What this means for the campaign against inequality is debatable.
A theory of exploitation in international law could shift debates over how institutions should seek to actualise commitments to equality. Levelling up may be little more than a rhetorical distraction with the only feasible path to international equality achievable through targeted levelling down. If this hypothesis proves accurate, debates on international equality – and debates on development – will require rethinking.
Timings and Location:
6.00 p.m. - Arrival and Registration
Dress code for the evening is business attire
Please note: All registrations are subject to availability. We reserve the right to limit and/or refuse registration without assigning any reason. We will confirm all valid registrations with a reminder email. If you do not receive a reminder email but have a valid registration please email us at email@example.com for confirmation before arriving at the venue.
About the Speaker:
Following stints at the University of Auckland, McGill University, and Queen’s University Belfast, Mohsen joined Warwick Law School in 2017. His current research interests and teaching responsibilities oscillate between international law (public and private), Third World legal studies, and legal theory, methods, and skills.
His scholarship is distinct in two ways: first, he adopts an inclusive understanding of international law, treating its public and private facets as symbiotic rather than mutually exclusive. Second, he favours the use of a Third World-centric method in his research, consistently searching for the impact of international law on societies that the First World often excludes from international legal debate.