Law, Legalization and Politics: An Agenda for the Next Generation of IR-IL Scholars
Kenneth W. Abbott
Arizona State University
Nuffield College, University of Oxford
June 20, 2012
INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVES ON INTERNATIONAL LAW AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: THE STATE OF THE ART (Jeffrey L. Dunoff & Mark Pollack, eds.) (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012 Forthcoming)
The intersection of international relations and international law (IR-IL) has developed into a sophisticated intellectual enterprise, yet there remains room for further advances. This chapter suggests a research agenda for the field as it moves into its next generation. Our argument turns on a series of conceptual pairings: IL and IR, law at a point in time and legalization over time, values and interests (and with them constructivist and rationalist analyses), and especially law and politics, which engage all the other concepts. Our approach seeks to avoid privileging either side of these pairings, which are often presented as dichotomies; indeed, the vitality of the IR-IL nexus lies in its ability to bring these elements together and exploit the synergies and tensions among them.
In exploring these pairings, we make several arguments. First, we note that IR-IL scholarship has been somewhat one-sided, with IR more frequently used to explain IL – mainly at a high level of generality. We argue that it is now time to reverse the gun sights: to ask what IL can contribute to IR, and what IR-IL has to offer traditional IL scholars and practitioners. Second, we observe that the “ism” wars between rationalism and constructivism have subsided in IR, but reawakened in the IR-IL setting. We argue that a unitary approach forfeits important intellectual advantages, including the ability to fully comprehend the interplay of law, legalization and politics, especially over time. Finally, we suggest several concrete areas for research that engage these themes, including a substantial agenda stemming from existing work, new forms of cooperation in the “penumbra” of international law, and opportunities to connect IR-IL with the practices of international law in ways that will contribute to the theoretical enterprise.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 31
Keywords: international law, international relations, legalization, law and politics, rationalism, constructivism, legal design, soft law, private rule-making, problem structure, social mechanisms
Date posted: June 21, 2012