Individualism in the Age of Internationalism

In the brief conclusion to The Empowered Self: Law and Society in the Age of Individualism, Thomas M. Franck asserts that he cannot satisfactorily summarize his book’s argument. Even if it were achievable, he clarifies, he would not engage in such an endeavor, since it would “preempt the reader’s autonomy and subvert his or her individual rights” (p. 278). That the author himself rejects the desirability of doing what reviewers generally do (i.e., condense and inevitably simplify complex tomes) is perhaps a somewhat awkward way to commence a discussion of his book. Nevertheless, this comment illustrates the extent to which Franck champions individual liberties and rights. It is also indicative of the declaratory tone of his prose: Franck reports observing “signs of tectonic change” (p. 278), indicating that we have reached “truly an historic watershed” (p. 195) of a “glorious selfinvented future” (p. 45), or, as he puts it elsewhere, the “new dawning of a spirit of individual assertiveness” (p. 60). Ironically, while he seems to encourage diverse readings, his text, for the most part, relies on a rhetoric of inevitability, leaving the reader little room for alternative views.