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The Critical Subject and the Subject of Critique in International Law and Technology|Article Review

The article titled "The Critical Subject and the Subject of Critique in International Law and Technology" by Geoff Gordon, Rebecca Mignot-Mahdavi, and Dimitri Van Den Meerssche discusses the role of technology in shaping legal subjects and the challenges it poses to critical theory in international law. The authors explore how digital technologies, such as big data and algorithmic analysis, are influencing the formation of legal subjects in various domains of international legal practice.

Emergence of Transient Legal Subjects and Implications for International Law

The article highlights the emergence of new modes of subject-making in global governance due to the use of digital technologies.

Rather than being exclusively enacted as abstract autonomous entities or classified based on stable criteria, subjects are now formed as transient clusters of attributes and data points. These subjects are constantly evolving and are tied together tentatively and temporarily. The challenges in defining and categorizing these transient legal subjects become apparent as they defy traditional classification systems and legal frameworks.

The authors argue that this mode of subject-making has significant implications for international law, as it introduces new dynamics of difference, challenges existing legal safeguards, and complicates collective agency. The fluid and dynamic nature of transient legal subjects undermines traditional notions of legal categorization and representation. This poses a challenge to established legal frameworks and demands a reevaluation of the principles that underpin international law.

Responses and Limitations

The authors also examine the responses of international law to these novel forms of governance by data. They find that regulatory and normative responses tend to rely on the reassertion of human autonomy, democratic representation, and concerns about algorithmic biases. However, they argue that these liberal responses are inadequate in addressing the challenges posed by algorithmic governance. The limitations of these responses highlight the need for alternative approaches that can effectively address the complexities of transient legal subjects and their impact on collective action and agency.

Examining Technology in Specific Domains

The article discusses the use of technology in global security governance, counterterrorism, criminal justice, and border control. It examines how data-driven practices and algorithmic analysis influence decision-making processes, subject categorization, and the exercise of state sovereignty. The authors emphasize the need for critical attention to these changing practices and their implications for subject-making and social sorting.

In summary, the article calls for a critical international law and technology agenda that goes beyond traditional liberal responses. It suggests the importance of examining the historical conditions, racial capitalism, and biopolitical regimes that underpin technological interventions. The authors also emphasize the need to scrutinize and contest the operations of pattern formation and the distributive effects of technology in enacting and normalizing legal subjects. They argue that these technological changes hinder collective political action and present challenges for critical approaches in international law.

Overall, the article provides a detailed analysis of the relationship between technology, subject-making, and critical theory in international law. It raises important questions about the impact of digital technologies on legal subjects and calls for further exploration and critical engagement in this field. By examining the challenges in defining and categorizing transient legal subjects and highlighting the implications for sovereignty, agency, and collective action, this article contributes to the ongoing discourse on the intersection of technology and international law.


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