Tying Ulysses to the Mast: International Economic Law and the Bonds of Globalization


LAC Burkhardt




For residence at the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History at Harvard University during academic year 2017-2018


Mainstream accounts narrate globalization since the 1970s as markets set free. Yet the story is more one of encasement than liberation as proliferating trade treaties, investment agreements, justice reform projects, Rule of Law indicators, balanced budget amendments and forums for non-state arbitration have shifted the world economy from the purview of government to that of law. This project offers the first intellectual history of this transformation. It shows that the field of international economic law developed since the 1970s from the belief that decolonization and democracy were threats to the global economy. Experts proposed that global capitalism and democracy could only co-exist by legally limiting state sovereignty or “tying Ulysses to the mast.” This project provides an archival history and genealogy of the legal architecture of globalization as an outcome of political struggle and the clash of competing visions of the world.