Rechtskulturen Lecture
Wed 25 Apr 2012 | 19:00–21:00

Concluding the Reformation? On peace, protection and political theology

Anne Orford

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Juristische Fakultät, Room 213, Unter den Linden 9, 10099 Berlin

In his classic treatise Leviathan, published in 1651, Thomas Hobbes sought to show that in a world fractured by religious warfare, where tradition, revelation, and shared values no longer guaranteed meaning, the lawfulness of authority could only be grounded upon the capacity to protect. In making that argument, Hobbes was part of a broader struggle between church and state, or spiritual and temporal authority. Central to that struggle was the question of whether the Pope had jurisdiction to declare that a ruler was unlawful and should be deposed or resisted. For many sovereigns and their advisors throughout Europe, the papal claim to depose or denounce kings had become a threat to European peace. While theologians developed detailed arguments explaining why spiritual authority was superior to temporal authority, it was Hobbes who developed a systematic argument in support of the superior jurisdiction of the state. In addressing the question of which concrete institution decides what is temporal and what is spiritual, what lies within the absolute authority of the state and what lies outside, Hobbes provided an account of the state as a clear alternative to the church’s monopoly on decision-making. According to Carl Schmitt in Political Theology II, Hobbes thus ‘brought the Reformation to a conclusion’. Today, the question of who decides whether a ruler is legitimate and on what grounds has not disappeared, but it has changed form. This lecture will explore the persistence of this question in debates about the responsibility to protect concept and its utilisation to justify international action in response to the Arab Spring.

Anne Orford is the Michael D Kirby Professor of International Law at Melbourne Law School. Her publications include International Authority and the Responsibility to Protect (Cambridge University Press, 2011), International Law and its Others (Cambridge University Press, 2006), and Reading Humanitarian Intervention: Human Rights and the Use of Force in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2003). She has been the recipient of two major Australian Research Council research-only fellowships, to undertake projects on Cosmopolitanism and the Future of International Law (2007 to 2011) and From Famine to Food Security: The Role of International Law (2012 to 2015). Anne has been the Torgny Segerstedt Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg (2011-12), a Visiting Professor at Lund University (2011, 2007, 2005), a core faculty member of the Workshop on Global Law and Economic Policy at Harvard Law School (2011), a Senior Emile Noël Research Fellow at NYU (2003), and has lectured in the Helsinki Summer Seminar on International Law (2012, 2004), the Cornell Law and Humanities Colloquium (2008), the NYU Institute for International Law and Justice Colloquium (2005), and the Academy of European Law (1998). She will be awarded an honorary doctorate by Lund University in May 2012.


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