Dimitri Van Den Meerssche | Journal of the History of International Law
This article maps out how (international) legal concepts and norms were employed during the inter-institutional struggle between the United Nations and the World Bank in the decolonization era. The first contribution is historiographical. Drawing on material from the Bank’s (oral) archives, the article gives an original account of the ways in which the organization bypassed the universalist aspirations that were gaining a foothold in the UN’s democratic bodies. Secondly, the paper retraces how this particular event gave rise to a clash between opposing imaginaries of international legal order, where axiological aspirations voiced by states from the Global South were ultimately frustrated by a functionalist understanding of international (institutional) law that justified the Bank’s institutional insulation. Finally, the paper aims to provide a modest methodological contribution to the field of international institutional law – a doctrinal discipline that traditionally pays little empirical attention to the historical and sociological performativity of concrete legal interventions.