RECENT BOOKS ON INTERNATIONAL LAW, Edited by Richard B. Bilder REVIEW ESSAY: Legitimacy, Authority, and Performance: Contemporary Anxieties of International Courts and Tribunals
114:1 The American Journal of International Law 149 (2020)
16 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 5, 2020
This review essay examines four edited volumes released in 2018 that address questions concerning the “legitimacy,” “authority,” and “performance” of international courts and tribunals (ICs): Legitimacy and International Courts (CUP 2018), The Legitimacy of International Trade Courts and Tribunals (CUP 2018), The Performance of International Courts and Tribunals (CUP 2018), and International Court Authority (OUP 2018).
The essay does not aim to untangle the four books, or, more modestly, identify gaps and overlaps. Instead, tries to understand the extent to which they are related to each other, identify the context in which they were conceived and written, and the perceived problems that pushed scholarship in this specific direction.
In recent years, there has been a full-frontal assault on the very idea that underpins international courts and tribunals: that international relations can and should be governed by the rule of law (with international courts and tribunals being its trustees) instead of the rule of might. It is thus a time of high anxiety for these institutions, and the attention paid to their underpinnings by the scholars who contributed to these four volumes is a reflection of this mood. The essay ends with an exhortation to scholars of international courts and tribunals: “We need to start taking stock of what has been done and what still needs to be done if we are to ensure that ICs will not go down in history as a temporary anomaly of the age between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the Crisis of Democracies.”
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