The Concept of Legalization
International Organization, Vol. 54, p. 401, 2000
19 Pages Posted: 18 May 2009
Date Written: 2000
We develop an empirically based conception of international legalization to show how law and politics are intertwined across a wide range of institutional forms and to frame the analytic and empirical articles that follow in this volume. International legalization is a form of institutionalization characterized by three dimensions: obligation, precision, and delegation. Obligation means that states are legally bound by rules or commitments and therefore subject to the general rules and procedures of international law. Precision means that the rules are definite, unambiguously defining the conduct they require, authorize, or proscribe. Delegation grants authority to third parties for the implementation of rules, including their interpretation and application, dispute settlement, and (possibly) further rule making. These dimensions are conceptually independent, and each is a matter of degree and gradation. Their various combinations produce a remarkable variety of international legalization. We illustrate a continuum ranging from "hard" legalization (characteristically associated with domestic legal systems) through various forms of "soft" legalization to situations where law is largely absent. Most international legalization lies between the extremes, where actors combine and invoke varying degrees of obligation, precision, and delegation to create subtle blends of politics and law.
Keywords: International law, International relations, Legalization
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