Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Barbara Stark

First Page



This Article examines the role of international law, particularly human rights law, as it relates to the process of globalization and its effects on women. Initially, the Article sets the stage by describing the course of globalization and the dramatic impact it has had on the world economy. The Author next examines the multiple and contradictory consequences of globalization for women.

The Article approaches this analysis from two perspectives. First, from a 'classic perspective," the Author contends that international law is the only legal system with the potential to regulate the principal agents of globalization--multinational corporations, banks and investment firms, and international organizations--and to insist that they respect women's human rights. Unfortunately, international law currently lacks the legal machinery to do so and the political will to create it.

From a 'postmodern perspective," in contrast, the Author asserts that international law is not a system at all. Rather, it is better understood as a superstore, a warehouse of treaties, customs, institutions, and norms. From this perspective, international human rights law may be viewed as a source of norms that women can draw upon to support a virtually endless range of ad hoc strategies. Although a postmodern conception of international law looks with skepticism on the aspirations of the classic conception, it may in fact be more effective in realizing some of those aspirations in the context of globalization.