Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The State of the Art.

Author:Hafner-Burton, Emilie M.
Position:Book review
 
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Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The State of the Art. Edited by Jeffrey L. Dunoff and Mark A. Pollack. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Pp. xv, 680. Index. $125, cloth; $44.99, paper.

Two distinct disciplines--international relations (IR) and international law (IL)--have been working in parallel to show how international legal institutions affect human behavior. In the past twenty-five years, varied efforts have brought IR and IL together through collaborations in scholarship, the trading of ideas, and the formation of new journals open to crossing the divide. Yet even when studying many of the same phenomena, the two fields often seem unaware of insights on the other side of the disciplinary divide. (1) That synopsis is the main message from this magisterial new book, Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The State of the Art, edited by Jeffrey Dunoff, of Temple University's Beasley School of Law, and Mark Pollack, of Temple University's College of Liberal Arts. It is a fresh and welcome look about how the two disciplines might cooperate better.

That "divide" between these disciplines (p. 11), explain Dunoff and Pollack, is rooted in three factors. The first is theory. While there have been forays into each other's side, both sides of the divide remain heavily influenced by caricatures of the other. Many scholars of IL still seem to believe that IR is all about realism, even though IR moved far beyond that theory with many different perspectives years ago. IR has become an increasingly problem-driven discipline, no longer centrally focused on theoretical wars against a simplistic "realist" view that state power determines all matters of international affairs. Gross ignorance is even more widespread in IR, where many scholars wrongly see IL as dominated by doctrinal disputes and not animated by any theory of how law works--even though the study of IL is much richer than doctrine and has greatly transformed to embrace a rich array of theories about the influence of law. Both fields have evolved in ways that bring considerable overlap, but neither side seems adequately aware of the synergies between IR and IL.

The second potentially more serious source of division is epistemological. The two fields differ over the origins, limits, and validity of knowledge. Mainstream political science has moved to positivist methods focused on causality and external validity. Law, by contrast, is both more diverse in approach and less self-aware. Positivism is present and growing but is far from the mainstream, and many in the IL community still resist its application to legal scholarship. But the reality is that the "scientific" turn in the social sciences does not map neatly onto the divide. There are plenty of political scientists and lawyers in both camps. The theme of Interdisciplinary Perspectives is heavily oriented around how modern scientific methods can identify and test theories about institutional design, judicial behavior, and other such topics in both fields.

Third are competing conceptions of law. IR often assumes that the central role of law is instrumental: it is a contract that gets things done and that works by altering material incentives. Actors behave purposively to pursue their interests, and the role of law is to change the costs and benefits of different actions. Sanctions and other forms of enforcement thus loom especially large as a topic for IR and have become a central focus of scholarship. Lawyers have always seen law as different--as something with an internal capacity for moral obligation, not just external material incentives. Law has a deep normative dimension, and the role of sanctions is, if anything, a vibrant...

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