Reputation and International Law

44 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2008

Date Written: February 2008


Among the reasons that states comply with international law in the absence of coercive enforcement mechanisms is a concern for their reputation for compliance with international legal rules. Such a reputation is valuable because it allows states to make credible commitments to one another in an effort to overcome problems of cooperation. To date neither the international relations nor the international law literature has developed a theory of reputation that explains in detail how states acquire a reputation for compliance, how they lose it, and how it affects behavior. This paper seeks to provide such a theory. It examines how states' reputation for compliance can be gained or lost and how reputational concerns interact with other payoffs. It considers strategic decisions states must make to manage reputation over time as well as the connection between better information and more effective reputational sanctions. Finally, the paper discusses the question of whether states have a single reputation for compliance with international law or, instead, several such reputations corresponding to different issue areas. The way in which this compartmentalization of reputation influences the ability of states to solve international problems is explained.

Keywords: international law, reputation, compliance

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Guzman, Andrew T., Reputation and International Law (February 2008). UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 1112064, Available at SSRN: or

Andrew T. Guzman (Contact Author)

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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