How International Law Works: A Rational Choice Theory

By Andrew T. Guzman | Go to book overview

6
UNDERSTANDING
INTERNATIONAL LAW

The study of international law is undergoing a transformation from a discipline focused on practice and doctrine into one putting greater emphasis on theory and social science methodology. International law scholars are rapidly adopting more sophisticated analytical techniques and applying these tools to study how states use law to promote cooperation in our anarchic international system.

This book seeks to contribute to our growing theoretical understanding of international law by developing a general rational choice theory capable of explaining the subject. The basics of the theory are simple and rely on the three ways a violation of international law can generate costs for a state (the Three Rs): reputation, reciprocal noncompliance, and retaliation. A state that does not comply with its international legal obligations may suffer because it finds it more difficult to make credible international commitments or benefit from international law in the future (reputation); because other states terminate their own compliance (reciprocity); or because other states punish it, even when doing so is costly (retaliation). Each of the Three Rs of Compliance can increase the costs of violation and, therefore, promote cooperation.

Though both reciprocity and retaliation have a certain intuitive appeal, they each rely on some notion of reputation, as discussed in chapter 2. Reciprocal noncompliance will only follow a breach if the violating state is unable to credibly promise compliance in the future; and a rational state has no incentive to retaliate unless doing so helps it to develop a reputation for punishing violators or helps it end an ongoing violation.

Some forms of international cooperation will feature all of the Three Rs, but others will feature only one or two of them. Of particular

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How International Law Works: A Rational Choice Theory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - A General Theory of International Law 25
  • 3 - Reputation 71
  • 4 - International Agreements 119
  • 5 - Customary International Law 183
  • 6 - Understanding International Law 211
  • Notes 219
  • Bibliography 237
  • Index 248
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