The Concept of Legalization

International Organization, Vol. 54, p. 401, 2000

19 Pages Posted: 18 May 2009

See all articles by Kenneth W. Abbott

Kenneth W. Abbott

Arizona State University

Robert O. Keohane

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Andrew Moravcsik

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Anne-Marie Slaughter

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Duncan Snidal

University of Chicago

Date Written: 2000

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Abbott, Kenneth Wayne and Keohane, Robert O. and Moravcsik, Andrew and Slaughter, Anne-Marie and Snidal, Duncan, The Concept of Legalization (2000). International Organization, Vol. 54, p. 401, 2000. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1402965

Kenneth Wayne Abbott (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
480-965-5917 (Phone)

Robert O. Keohane

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Andrew Moravcsik

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Anne-Marie Slaughter

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States
609-258-4800 (Phone)

Duncan Snidal

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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