Liberalism, violence and inequality
This chapter argues that the conceptual foundations of global liberal order and international law, founded upon the natural law and natural rights traditions, are troubled by a paradox of property. This paradox involves the problem that the ‘rights’ of private property and state sovereignty are often historically founded upon the ‘wrongs’ of historical violence, of dispossession, theft, and seizure. For Gerrard Winstanley and Jean-Jacques Rousseau legal and political relations constituted by private property perpetuate an ongoing wrong and are connected to economic inequality and exploitation. The theories of natural law and natural rights, such as that developed by Hugo Grotius and Immanuel Kant, attempted to present an idea of peaceful, global juridical relations built upon the balancing of the rights of state sovereignty, the rights to private property, and the human rights of individuals. One heavily influential 18th-century response to Rousseau’s reframing of the paradox of property is given by Adam Smith.