Modern International Relations Theory: A Prospectus for International Lawyers
Kenneth W. Abbott
Arizona State University
Yale Journal of Int’l Law, Vol. 14, p. 335, 1989
International law (IL) and international relations (IR) scholarship have long proceeded on separate tracks. Realism, the dominant IR theory for over two thousand years, has had little to say to students of international law, although some postwar Realists have sought a better understanding of international rules and institutions. One particularly important body of IR theory, emerging only in the 1980s, focuses on normative orders called “international regimes.” The development of regime theory and related theories of international cooperation – modern IR theory – offers a long-overdue opportunity to reintegrate IL and IR.
This article introduces the major elements of modern IR theory and the work of its leading contributors, and suggests their relevance to the study of international law. It emphasizes two analytical approaches. First, the article explores basic game theory models that epitomize common forms of state interaction in which benefits can be enhanced through cooperation in the form of international rules and institutions. Second,it explores analogies between international relations and the operations of markets, including common forms of "political market failure."
The article emphasizes what Robert Keohane has dubbed the "demand side" of modern IR theory - why states rationally demand international regimes - because this aspect provides immediate insight into the functions of legal norms and institutions. The article also discusses elements of the "supply side" - how international cooperation to create norms and institutions is achieved.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 77
Keywords: International relations, International law, International cooperation
Date posted: May 18, 2009
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