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Photo: “IMG_1965“, by Tom Page, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Ginsburg, Tom. “How Authoritarians Use International Law.” Journal of Democracy 31, no. 4 (2020): 44-58.


Two great trends of our time are legalization and autocratization. Both these trends are now extending to the level of international governance. As authoritarian regimes wield more power on the international plane, they are turning to international law as a means of shielding themselves from criticism and actively promoting their own illiberal projects. Their strategies include repurposing multilateral institutions, creating new norms, and seeking to assert jurisdiction over their critics abroad. The development of authoritarian international law requires a creative response from democracies that has not yet been forthcoming.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.