Abstract: The interpenetration of global political and economic life has placed questions of ‘political economy’ on the scholarly agenda across the social sciences. The author argues that international law could contribute to understanding and transforming centre–periphery patterns of dynamic inequality in global political economic life. The core elements of both economic and political activity – capital, labour, credit, and money, as well as public or private power and right – are legal institutions. Law is the link binding centres and peripheries to one another and structuring their interaction. It is also the vernacular through which power and wealth justify their exercise and shroud their authority. The author proposes rethinking international law as a terrain for political and economic struggle rather than as a normative or technical substitute for political choice, itself indifferent to natural flows of economic activity.