Prosociality, International Law and Humanitarian Intervention
Forthcoming in "International Law’s Invisible Frames – Social Cognition and Knowledge Production in International Legal Processes" (Andrea Bianchi & Moshe Hirsch eds., Oxford University Press, 2021).
Hebrew University of Jerusalem International Law Forum Working Series [10-20]
20 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2020 Last revised: 17 Dec 2020
Date Written: October 2, 2020
A significant insight of behavioral economics and social psychology, well-established through experimental research, is that actors often display “social preferences”, other-regarding or non-self-interested motivations and choices in their decision-making. Contrary to the assumptions of rational choice theory, people may have only ‘bounded selfishness’ in the decisions they make, caring not only about their own payoffs, but also about those of others and their communities. This chapter provides a broad and tentative framework for engaging with the questions associated with the relevance of the study of prosciality to international law, surveying the field and discussing the levels of analysis problem that inheres in any shift from individual psychology to the behavior of corporate actors such as states. To illuminate this research potential, the chapter focuses on one area in which the perspective of prosociality may enrich the discussion of a contested issue in international law and the problems such a perspective raises, namely humanitarian intervention. How can motivation and personality – the two main variables related to prosociality – be understood with respect to international actors? Is the ‘bystander effect’ prevalent in international relations? Which other areas of international law bear analytical relation to prosociality? And can (or should) the design of international law encourage prosociality by states and other international actors?
Keywords: prosociality, bounded rationality, bounded self-interest, humanitarian intervention, responsibility to protect, bystander effect
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