Beyond Compliance: Rethinking Why International Law Really Matters

Global Policy (Online), Vol. 1, No. 2, 2010

NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 10-08

30 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2010

See all articles by Robert L. Howse

Robert L. Howse

New York University School of Law

Ruti Teitel

New York Law School

Abstract

The conceptual, and more recently empirical, study of compliance has become a central preoccupation, and perhaps the fastest growing sub-field, in international legal scholarship. The authors seek to put in question this trend. They argue that looking at the aspirations of international law through the lens of rule-compliance leads to inadequate scrutiny and understanding of the diverse complex purposes and projects that multiple actors impose and transpose on international legality, and especially a tendency to oversimplify if not distort the relation of international law to politics. Citing a range of examples from different areas of international law-ranging widely from international trade and investment to international criminal and humanitarian law-the authors seek to show how the concept of compliance (especially viewed as rule-observance) is inadequate to understanding how international law has normative effects. A fundamental flaw of compliance studies is they abstract from the problem of interpretation: Interpretation is pervasively determinative of what happens to legal rules when they are out in the world yet “compliance” studies begin with the notion that there is a stable and agreed meaning to a rule, and we need merely observe whether it is obeyed.

Suggested Citation

Howse, Robert and Teitel, Ruti, Beyond Compliance: Rethinking Why International Law Really Matters. Global Policy (Online), Vol. 1, No. 2, 2010; NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 10-08. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1551923

Robert Howse (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Ruti Teitel

New York Law School ( email )

185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States

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