Prof. O’Connell to Give Book Talk at Hammes

Author: Susan Good

Mary Ellen Oconnell Notre Dame Professor of Law Mary Ellen O’Connell will discuss her new book, THE POWER AND PURPOSE OF INTERNATIONAL LAW (Oxford University Press, August 2008), on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore. A reception and book signing will follow her talk. Oxford University Press describes the book this way:

The world is poised for another important transition. The United States will soon have a new president, someone who will have to deal with the impact of the Afghan and Iraq wars, the use of torture and secret detention, Guantanamo, climate change, nuclear proliferation, weakened international institutions, and other issues related directly or indirectly to international law. The next president and the public worldwide need an accurate account of the important role of international law and The Power and Purpose of International Law seeks to provide it.

Mary Ellen O’Connell explains the purpose of international law and the power it has to achieve that purpose. International law supports order in the world and the attainment of humanity’s fundamental goals of peace, prosperity, respect for human rights, and protection of the natural environment. These goals can best be realized through international law, which uniquely has the capacity to bind even a superpower of the world. By exploring the roots and history of international law, and by looking at specific events in the history of international law, this book demonstrates the why and the how of international law and its enforcement. It directly confronts the notion that international law is “powerless” and that working within the framework of international law is useless or counter-productive. As the world moves forward, it is critical that both leaders and their citizens understand the true power and purpose of international law and this book creates a valuable resource for them to aid their understanding. It uses a clear, compelling style to convey topical, informative and cutting-edge information to the reader.

O’Connell wrote the book in response to “The Limits of International Law,” a 2005 book that devalues international law and dismisses it as an ineffective. Says O’Connell, “It’s a myth that international law doesn’t work and that nations disregard it. The truth is that most nations obey most international law most of the time. In the cases where it doesn’t work, the answer is not to disregard or dismiss it. The answer is to strengthen it.”

O’Connell says that international law is the neutral vehicle that can help the entire world achieve its common aims of peace, prosperity, human rights, and protection of the natural environment. “This book is a vision for how we can move forward,” says O’Connell. “Anyone concerned about torture, the world food crisis, Guantanamo Bay, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other international issues, will find this book encouraging.”

O’Connell joined the Notre Dame faculty as the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law in 2005. She earned her B.A. in history, with highest honors, from Northwestern University in 1980, an MSc. in International Relations from the London School of Economics in 1981, and an LL.B., with first class honors, from Cambridge University in 1982. She earned her J.D. from Columbia University in 1985, where she was a Stone Scholar and book review editor for the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. After graduation, she practiced with Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. She then taught at Indiana University School of Law, Bloomington; at The Bologna Center of The Johns Hopkins University, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna, Italy; and the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany; and the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

The author of three casebooks, four edited collections, and more than sixty articles and book chapters, Professor O’Connell has been active in the American Society of International Law, the German Society of International Law, the International Institute for Humanitarian Law, and the International Law Association, where she chairs the Committee on the Use of Force.

For more information about Professor O’Connell, visit her faculty profile page.