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The Limits of International Law

2.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195168396
ISBN-10: 0195168399
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"...a valuable contribution to international relations and a useful book for lawmakers and laymen alike."--The Weekly Standard


"Scholars have long debated why and when states comply with international law; one widely held view is that states do so out of a sense of moral obligation or a desire for legitimacy. This elegantly argued book... offers a simpler and more instrumental explanation: states agree to and follow international law only when it is in their national self-interest."--Foreign Affairs


"Jack L. Goldsmith and Eric A. Posner boldly and ambitiously set out to answer a host of traditional questions posed by critics and advocates of international law.... As the central theme, the single most distinctive character of the book is the employment of rational choice theory as it relates to international law.... The creativity displayed here should now whet the appetite of other legal scholars to approach the international law and politics relationship from the perpsective of prospect theory, or pursuing policy on the fear of losing an objective."--The Law and Politics Book Review


"How much effect does international law actually have on how nations behave? Goldsmith and Posner ask trenchant questions and offer thought-provoking answers in a pioneering effort to address that question through the prism of rational choice theory. There will be a long and vigorous debate about the utility of their approach. Agree with them or not, their boldness and innovation provide a welcome effort at injecting greater analytic rigor into international law scholarship."--Michael J. Glennon, Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University


"At a time of rising interest in the intersection of international law and international relations scholarship, Goldsmith and Posner throw down a gauntlet likely to infuriate many traditional international lawyers. Their insistence that international legal obligations are equal part coincidence and rational state self-interest, nothing more, demands and will certainly get an answer. Equally important is their claim to be the heirs of Kennan and Morgenthau in cautioning against the perils of what they perceive to be a new round of legalism-moralism. They have thus raised the political as much as the methodological stakes in what is likely to be a heated and timely debate."--Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University


"Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner have written a compelling study which provides an elegant analytic framework for understanding when international law matters and when it does not. Goldsmith and Posner show that some kinds of international law are very consequential while others are not. After this study it will be difficult for any serious observer to treat customary international law as if it were a constraint on rather than an manifestation of changing state power and preferences."--Stephen D. Krasner, Department of Political Science, Stanford University


From the Publisher

"...a valuable contribution to international relations and a useful book for lawmakers and laymen alike." -- The Weekly Standard

"Scholars have long debated why and when states comply with international law; one widely held view is that states do so out of a sense of moral obligation or a desire for legitimacy. This elegantly argued book... offers a simpler and more instrumental explanation: states agree to and follow international law only when it is in their national self-interest." -- Foreign Affairs

"Jack L. Goldsmith and Eric A. Posner boldly and ambitiously set out to answer a host of traditional questions posed by critics and advocates of international law.... As the central theme, the single most distinctive character of the book is the employment of rational choice theory as it relates to international law.... The creativity displayed here should now whet the appetite of other legal scholars to approach the international law and politics relationship from the perspective of prospect theory, or pursuing policy on the fear of losing an objective." -- The Law and Politics Book Review

"How much effect does international law actually have on how nations behave? Goldsmith and Posner ask trenchant questions and offer thought-provoking answers in a pioneering effort to address that question through the prism of rational choice theory. There will be a long and vigorous debate about the utility of their approach. Agree with them or not, their boldness and innovation provide a welcome effort at injecting greater analytic rigor into international law scholarship." -- Michael J. Glennon, Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University

"At a time of rising interest in the intersection of international law and international relations scholarship, Goldsmith and Posner throw down a gauntlet likely to infuriate many traditional international lawyers. Their insistence that international legal obligations are equal part coincidence and rational state self-interest, nothing more, demands and will certainly get an answer. Equally important is their claim to be the heirs of Kennan and Morgenthau in cautioning against the perils of what they perceive to be a new round of legalism-moralism. They have thus raised the political as much as the methodological stakes in what is likely to be a heated and timely debate." -- Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

"Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner have written a compelling study which provides an elegant analytic framework for understanding when international law matters and when it does not. Goldsmith and Posner show that some kinds of international law are very consequential while others are not. After this study it will be difficult for any serious observer to treat customary international law as if it were a constraint on rather than an manifestation of changing state power and preferences." -- Stephen D. Krasner, Department of Political Science, Stanford University

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195168399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195168396
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.1 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,104,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Velshi on October 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
What is international law? Most international lawyers will tell you that there are principles of international legality that are larger than any specific treaty and these principles of legality bind states, sometimes even against their will; there is something called customary international law which is international law that evolved in a decentralized fashion as a matter of custom; and there are human rights norms that are part of customary international law and bind states even if those states never explicitly agreed to them.

In this short, sharp book, Jack Goldmsith and Eric Posner explain why this is nonsense. International law, they argue, is a part of international politics. States enter into treaties and other international legal institutions when doing so serves their interests. Any cooperation among states is a byproduct of that rational act. On the whole, the Goldsmith and Posner are quite convincing.

The theory of the book is, nevertheless, incomplete without a discussion of how nations actually identify and develop their interests in the first place. On this, the authors are silent. Why does Britain feel it is in its interest to sign the Kyoto Protocol? Why do totalitarian regimes sign human rights treaties? Why enter into international agreements at all? This book lacks a theory that explains or predicts the amount of international law. If there is no moral or legal obligation to obey international law, is there even such a thing as international law?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As implied by the title, the authors argue that the moral and practical effectiveness of International Law (IL) is often exaggerated and excessively informed by narrow, legalistic views that inadequately consider state interests and power relationships, or the realities of International Relations (IR).

In the first two parts of "The Limits of International Law", the authors largely rely on case studies to illustrate how state adherence or otherwise to Customary International Law (CIL, or, in layman's terms, the commonly accepted practices of relations between states) and treaty law is shaped by state interests. The discussion of CIL is hampered in my view by a reliance on case studies largely from the 19th century - a number of the authors' arguments could be all too easily dismissed as a historic perspective rather than reflecting current IL practice. The discussions of treaty law and the role of non-legal agreements draw on examples of arms control, human rights and international trade (including within the context of GATT and the WTO) and is somewhat more convincing in arguing that ratification and adherence are often two very different things in the absence of a robust enforcement mechanism.

The last part of the book discusses the "moral authority" perspective of IL, arguing that IL has no inherent moral authority and that compliance with IL should be a function of national interest and public opinion within a state rather than an appeal to the sanctity of IL itself.
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Format: Paperback
G+P offer a very refreshing new approach to international law. they suggest that compliance is largely contributed to incentives and not enforcement. states obey international law not because they fear punishment but out of their own interest. ex. most people dont drink and drive not because they fear getting caught but they just simply do not want to risk dying a bloody death. very interesting book. i highly recommend.
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Thanks!
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