Institutionalism and International Law

23 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2011

See all articles by Barbara Koremenos

Barbara Koremenos

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science

Date Written: August 29, 2011


This paper surveys the Institutionalist literature in International Relations and its intersection with International Law scholarship. The Rational Design research agenda and the follow-up project, “The Continent of International Law,” are highlighted, given that they aim to be genuinely interdisciplinary. The premise of this agenda is that the details of international law are indeed important and should be studied, but we cannot understand international agreement design and compare across agreements without understanding the underlying cooperation problems the actors are trying to solve – that is, all the stuff international politics is made of (enforcement problems, uncertainty problems, distributions problems, etc). Three areas of international relations are covered: the making, interpretation, and enforcement of law. Perhaps more than any other of the main theories of International Relations, Institutionalism speaks rigorously to all three of these topics. Moreover, connections to the literature in International Law are pointed out. However, the Institutionalist literature would also benefit from a more extensive dialogue with other theoretical approaches, and several opportunities for such mutual enrichment are pointed out in the paper. Finally, the paper charts an agenda for future work in the Institutionalist framework.

Keywords: International Law, International Agreement Design, Institutionalism

Suggested Citation

Koremenos, Barbara, Institutionalism and International Law (August 29, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Barbara Koremenos (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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