The dualism between public and private spheres of action has been identified as a key feature of Western, liberal thought. Its normative consequences in domestic law have been much critiqued on both practical and theoretical grounds. The article examines how this same distinction operates in international law, <it>inter alia</it> through the principles of attribution for the purposes of state responsibility to delineate the reserved area from international intrusion. It questions whether the changing concept of the role of the state undermines the usefulness of the distinction and considers some of the strategies engaged for its avoidance, in particular within human rights jurisprudence
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