Document Type

Book Review

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International Investment Regime, Arbitration, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, Systemic Inequality, Postcolonialism, Critical Scholarship, Book Reviews


The international investment regime is in flux. The mainstream practice of investment law and arbitration works on the basis of the regime’s foundations in contract and property law. However, critical scholarship in the field has unearthed the coloniality of power that permeates both the practice of international investment law and the current reform exercise led by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III. These critical scholars warn of the imminent reproduction and entrenchment of the systemic inequities, power asymmetries, and investment law’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime which is skewed against post-colonial host states. The two books1 under review offer a range of thought-provoking approaches for analyzing the past, present, and future of investment law. This Review Essay categorizes these books into two modes of critical scholarship on international investment law: moderate and radical.2 In Part II, I flesh out the conceptual categories of moderate and radical critique. In Part III, I analyze the books under review through the lens of these two conceptual frameworks. In Part IV, I turn to the question of race and investment law. This Review Essay suggests that race should not be neglected in our analysis of the past, present, and, most importantly, the future of investment law—a core theme that both books under review does not engage with. Part V briefly concludes.


This article has been published in a revised form in the American Journal of International Law []. This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale, or use in derivative works.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press for The American Society of International Law