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Law without Nations?: Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States Hardcover – February 13, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (February 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691095302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691095301
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,728,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[A] forceful defense of the virtues of national sovereignty. . . . Law without Nations? is readable and persuasive."--Thomas Nagel, New Republic

"[A] learned and closely-argued book. . . . His argument is rich in scholarship, detail and nuance."--Peter Berkowitz, Policy Review

"Rabkin has skillfully and intrepidly outlined the main problems, including the dangerous embrace of 'soft law' and the hobbling of the right of states to self-defense. . . . [T]he present volume should be required reading."--Michla Pomerance, Azure

From the Inside Flap

"Sovereign powers enable a state to provide essential services to its citizens, as for example: freedom to speak, choose, and elect, a lawful society, and national defense. But these sovereign powers of states have eroded in fact and in intellectual discourse. The time has long passed to push back. Dr. Rabkin does so in this important book."--George P. Shultz, Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Secretary of State of the United States 1982-1989

"This timely book is a fine consideration of the principal conceptions of the new world order. Among its many virtues are that it etches clearly the content of both the pragmatic, unilateralist vision of the United States and the utopian and multilateralist vision of Europe. It then traces this conflict to fundamental differences in political philosophy and historical experience. A richly textured account, Law without Nations? is likely to have a broad audience of political scientists, international lawyers and diplomats."--John O. McGinnis, Northwestern University

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A. Aure on February 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a thorough analysis of the relationship between trans national ideas and national sovereignty from an American perspective. He holds up current concepts of international affairs to historical and moral philosophical scrutiny.

Rabkin makes a strong case for why America should protect its Constitution and independence and not let its system of government be corrupted and polluted by vague post modernist trans national norms and schemes of global governance. He argues that the ideals of various internationalists are utopian and dangerous. As to their wishful thinking (p. 31): "International organizations will intervene to protect rights - but not by coercion. And advocacy groups will ensure compliance - but not by coercion. And everyone will have rights - but not really."

Rabkin rejects that his scepticism to submitting to various schemes of global governance rests on a "realist" and Hobbesian outlook. The American and classical liberal view is rather the acceptance of the fact that people "do not readily agree on fundamental things and should not have to agree." (p. 270) This is recognized pre-eminently by the American Constitution which was created to protect such pluralism.

This book is an important contribution to a better understanding of why America is and should be sceptic to ineffectual and/or potentially encroaching schemes of global governance.

It does not do Rabkin justice to say he uses sarcasm as substitute for argument, as the previous reviewer claims. This is a highly serious and scholarly work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By advokat on May 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
The book is a rarity. Most scholars of international law are ideologically committed to ever greater expansion of the sphere of application of international law. At the same time, the rigid structure of public international law is being diluted, confused and undermined by ideological crusades to use international law as a bland tool to advance pet ideological agendas. Professor Rabkin provides a sane argument to demonstrate the pitfalls of the prevailing approach. Contrary to what one star reviewers say, he is not in the least anti-international law as such, just against wildly exaggerated ideological role that is attached to it in the liberal academia. Interestingly, the real world practitioners, such as arbitrators on the panels of international investment arbitration tribunals (the place where international law meets real life, as contrasted with academia, where international law meets ideological prejudices), take approach that looks very much like the approach of Professor Rabkin - a hard-headed reliance on the sovereignty as a departure point for any serious application of international law. Professor Rabkin's book is much more helpful to understand how international law is applied by real lawyers to real problems than the ideologically induced academic discourses on virtues of "universal jurisdiction", whatever this means.
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4 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Frank on June 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
Rabkin confronts us with an important problem. In an increasingly complex and integrated global political economy, how are we to protect the individual liberties commonly associated with constitutional government? Given the seriousness of the issue, it is genuinely unfortunate that Rabkin gets in his own way with nationalistic rhetoric that approaches xenophobia.

But Rabkin's ideological excesses are worse than simply unfortunate. They are an unhelpful reminder to the rest of humanity that the superior self-image of the ugly American is not only alive and well, but comfortably ensconced in the privileged halls of academe.

For someone with a serious interest in globalization and its political implications, Ann-Marie Slaughter's book, New World Order, is a far more useful place to start. The debate about how we can become masters of our own fate is likely to be a dominant theme as America continues to outgrow its national immaturity. If Rabkin wants to be taken seriously as a participant in that debate he will have to refrain from intellectual bluster and bullying.
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5 of 36 people found the following review helpful By buyer on January 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This author uses sarcasm to avoid confronting the faults of his argument, dismissing anything that he disagrees with as pure absurdity. Although he presents a decent argument for constitutional govt and the inconsistency with international law it is completely overshadowed by his lack of objectivity. This should not be used at a textbook, but rather a ranting of a right-wing extremist attempting to divert attention from his own political flaws.
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