Constructing an International Community

American Journal of International Law, Forthcoming

65 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2017 Last revised: 6 Nov 2017

See all articles by Monica Hakimi

Monica Hakimi

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: August 1, 2017


What unites states and other global actors around a shared governance project? How does the group — what I will call an “international community” — coalesce and stay engaged in the enterprise? A frequent assumption is that an international community is cemented by its members’ commonalities and depleted by their intractable disagreements. This article critiques that assumption and presents, as an alternative, a theory that accounts for the combined integration and discord that actually characterize most global governance associations. I argue that conflict, especially conflict that manifests in law, is not necessarily corrosive to an international community. To the contrary, it often is a unifying force that helps constitute and fortify the community and support the governance project. As such, international legal conflict can have systemic value for the global order, even when it lacks substantive resolution. The implications for the design and practice of international law are far-reaching.

Keywords: public international law, international legal theory, international community, cooperation, conflict, ethical argument, jus cogens, erga omnes, and trade

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Hakimi, Monica, Constructing an International Community (August 1, 2017). American Journal of International Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Monica Hakimi (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

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