This article examines how the perestroika gave rise to a new legal thinking that helped spark a broader transformation of international law and governance. Building on the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, the article analyzes the emergence and short-lived influence of the professionals behind the new legal thinking of the perestroika. This elite operated at the crossroads between international and domestic law and politics. At this juncture, and in an attempt to safeguard and solidify their own position, they promoted the primacy of international law over politics by calling for, among other things, the establishment of an international criminal court. Building on the thinking of this elite that coexisted with concurrent streams of investments into international law from both East and West, a geopolitical window for new criminal law initiatives beyond the state was opened. It was in this brief window of opportunity that the field of international criminal justice was developed as a reflection of a wider universalist promise of establishing legal primacy in international governance.