Abstract and Keywords
This chapter re-examines the history of free trade and its relationship to international law. It locates contemporary trade agreements within a larger story about the relation between the state, the market, and the social; explores why it is useful to place current trade agreements within a longer historical trajectory; offers a brief narrative of how the concept of free trade has moved across a two-hundred-year period since the late eighteenth century; and concludes that concepts such as free trade (and related concepts such as discrimination, market distortion, protection, and subsidies) are the product of political struggles over particular ways of understanding the world, justifying entitlements to resources, explaining why some people should profit from the labour of others, and legitimizing the exercise of power.
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