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International Law in Black and White


Daniel Bodansky


Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

2006

Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 34, 2006
UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-005

Abstract:     
Is the study of international law an art or a science? Can the role of international law be explained by general rules, with predictive value? Or does it require the exercise of judgment, in order to account for the richness and complexity of international life? Traditionally, international lawyers have gravitated to the latter view, analyzing issues in an essentially ad hoc and eclectic manner. In their controversial new book, The Limits of International Law, Jack Goldsmith and Eric Posner argue forcefully for a more scientific approach, relying on the methodology known as rational choice theory. The article examine the book's ambition to develop an overarching theory of international law, which reduces the role played by international law to a few simple explanatory models. In the end, Limits makes a convincing case that rational choice theory can help us better understand the development and effectiveness of international law. But the book provides no compelling reason why noninstrumental factors might not also play a role. It presents a flattened picture of the world, drained of texture and nuance and color. It illustrates that, to understand international law, we need not only science, but also art.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 21

Keywords: international law, methodology, theory

JEL Classification: K33

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Date posted: March 6, 2006 ; Last revised: August 25, 2009

Suggested Citation

Bodansky, Daniel, International Law in Black and White (2006). Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 34, 2006; UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-005. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=887767

Contact Information

Daniel Bodansky (Contact Author)
Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )
Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
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