A Comparative Foreign Relations Law Agenda: Opportunities and Challenges

18 Pages Posted: 2 May 2019

Date Written: March 31, 2019


International law is generally understood to be made up of the rules that states accept as binding in their relations with one another. But international law is the product not only of a political and legal process that takes place between states — as this common understanding implies — but also of processes that take place within them. And yet to date there has been remarkably little cross-national work examining the role of domestic politics and law in the creation of treaties and other international law. Part of the reason for this gap is the difficulty of conducting cross-national studies of foreign relations law on a large scale. To the extent there have been comparative studies done of foreign relations law, they have been largely limited to relatively small-scale case studies. More comprehensive examination of the differences across nations in the ways in which they make international commitments is rare. This chapter aims to contribute to an emerging conversation about how best to carry out a more comprehensive examination of differences between states in the law governing their engagement in the world around them. It maps out five areas that offer opportunities and challenges for the study of comparative foreign relations law. First, the choice of methodology, whether quantitative or qualitative. Second, the under-representation of certain states in existing foreign relations scholarship. Third, the domestic political and institutional structures that shape the interplay between the legislative, executive, and judicial functions within states. Fourth, the role of geopolitics. Fifth, the chapter sounds a cautionary note about approaching international law through domestic law.

Keywords: Comparative Foreign Relations Law

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Hathaway, Oona A., A Comparative Foreign Relations Law Agenda: Opportunities and Challenges (March 31, 2019). Yale Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 667. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3363312 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3363312

Oona A. Hathaway (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
203-432-4992 (Phone)
203-432-1107 (Fax)

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