Socializing States: Promoting Human Rights Through International Law.

Author:Sloss, David
Position:Book review

Socializing States: Promoting Human Rights Through International Law. By Ryan Goodman and Derek Jinks. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. ix, 240. Index. $99, cloth; $29.95, paper.

In Socializing States: Promoting Human Rights Through International Law, Professors Ryan Goodman (New York University School of Law) and Derek Jinks (University of Texas School of Law) have made a very important contribution to the growing body of scholarship at the intersection between international law and international relations. (1) Indeed, the American Society of International Law recognized the book by awarding it the 2014 Certificate of Merit for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship. The book's primary goal is to explain how actors in the international legal system influence the behavior of states: in particular, how states can be induced to improve their compliance with international human rights norms. To achieve that goal, the authors draw on an impressive breadth of scholarly work in law, political science, sociology, international relations, and other disciplines.

Socializing States addresses the causal mechanisms that influence state behavior. Goodman and Jinks note that the existing literature focuses primarily on two such mechanisms: material inducement and persuasion. Socializing States highlights the importance of a third mechanism, which they call "acculturation" (p. 4). They define acculturation as "the general process by which actors adopt the beliefs and behavioral patterns of the surrounding culture" [id.). "Whereas persuasion emphasizes the content of a norm, acculturation emphasizes the relationship of the actor to a reference group or wider cultural environment" (p. 26). The touchstone of persuasion "is that actors are consciously convinced of the truth, validity, or appropriateness of a norm, belief, or practice" (p. 24). In contrast, "the touchstone of acculturation is that varying degrees of identification with a reference group generate varying degrees of cognitive and social pressures to conform" (p. 26). Socializing States demonstrates that acculturation is a real phenomenon that differs in important ways from both persuasion and material inducement. Goodman and Jinks make a compelling argument that models of state behavior that fail to account for the causal force of acculturation are inaccurate, incomplete, or both.

The authors provide a wonderful, concise summary of the process by which acculturation influences state behavior:

[P]atterns of formal state practice suggest that global- and regional-level institutions systematically influence state-level legal and policy choices. In effect, the international legal regime causes changes in state policy and practice. This macro-macro causal link, on our view, is ultimately explicable at the micro level.... The specific causal pathway might be usefully summarized as follows. Macro-level developments influence relevant actors within states including government officials, policy advisors, members of the national and local media, issue-specific activists, and even ordinary citizens. These actors, in turn, influence national-level legal and policy outcomes. In other words, we postulate a macro-micro-macro causal explanation. (Pp. 12-13) This account seems basically correct, subject to one important caveat. The authors' list of "relevant actors within states" (p. 13) does not specifically mention domestic courts. Moreover, Socializing States as a whole says very little about domestic courts as agents for internalizing international human rights norms. This omission is significant because--especially in the field of human rights--domestic courts play a vital role in incorporating international norms into domestic legal systems. (2) I elaborate on this point below.

Socializing States is divided into three parts. Following an introductory chapter, part I (chapters 2-4) describes how different causal mechanisms influence state behavior. In chapter 2, Goodman and Jinks present a concise explanation of the processes of material inducement, persuasion, and acculturation, including a terrific thick description of the mechanics of acculturation. Chapter 3 provides an abstract, conceptual discussion of "the types and patterns of observed behavior that would indicate that acculturation (rather than persuasion or material inducement) explains the diffusion of a particular norm" (p. 39). Chapter 4 is a gold mine. Drawing on a broad array of empirical work by other scholars, Goodman and Jinks present a compelling empirical argument in support of their claim that acculturation is a distinct causal mechanism--different from both persuasion and material inducement--that exerts observable influence over state behavior in the field of human rights, and in other areas as well. The empirical evidence summarized in chapter 4 should be sufficient to convince any disinterested reader that acculturation has a powerful impact on state behavior.

In part II (chapters 5-7), Goodman and Jinks apply their tripartite model of material inducement, persuasion, and acculturation to three discrete problems of human-rights-regime design; they emphasize the ways in which their account of acculturation sheds new light on recurrent regime-design issues. The three problems that they address--rules for membership in intergovernmental organizations, the specificity of substantive human rights norms, and monitoring and enforcement provisions--are selected to illustrate the benefits of an analytical model that highlights the importance of acculturation. In my judgment, though, part II is not as persuasive as part I. It bears emphasis that the international human rights regime is already a well-developed international regime, which has evolved gradually over the last seventy years. In light of...

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