Stephen Wertheim and Afroditi Giovanopoulou


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On this episode we discuss the legal theory of the origins of American empire. Stephen Wertheim, Deputy Director of Research and Policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, and Afroditi Giovanopoulou, PhD Candidate at Columbia University, join us to discuss their recent works on this subject and debate the role law played in U.S. efforts to reshape the postwar global order.

Wertheim’s book, Tomorrow the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy, discusses intellectual developments during the crucial period before and during World War II when the U.S. decided to “extend its form of law and order to the globe and back it at gunpoint.” Rather than a dispute between internationalists and isolationists, Wertheim argues the period was marked by differences among those committed to an America playing a role in global affairs and a quick but radical shift toward American armed supremacy. Giovanopoulou’s article, “Pragmatic Legalism: Revisiting America’s Order After World War II,” argues that neither adherence to a norms-based international order nor realist dismissal of that project defined wartime and postwar efforts. Instead, the intellectual influence of legal realists and New Dealers led to a view of law as a tool rather than as a constraint, in reaction to the legal sensibilities of prewar foreign policy makers, who promoted the codification of international norms and the judicial resolution of international disputes.

11 episodes