Politics and International Legal Obligation

Reus-Smit, Christian (2003) Politics and International Legal Obligation. European Journal of International Relations, 9 4: 591-625. doi:10.1177/135406610394003

Author Reus-Smit, Christian
Title Politics and International Legal Obligation
Journal name European Journal of International Relations   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1354-0661
Publication date 2003-12-01
Year available 2003
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1177/135406610394003
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 9
Issue 4
Start page 591
End page 625
Total pages 35
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher Sage Publications Ltd.
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Why do states recognize an obligation to observe the rules of international law? Existing accounts of international legal obligation suffer from the problem of 'interiority'. They first ground obligation in some internal feature of the international legal system - such as consent, fairness or dialogue - but when these turn out to be insufficient, they fall back on assumptions about the legitimacy of the international legal system itself, for which they cannot account. The roots of this problem ultimately lie in flawed conceptions of politics that underlie these accounts. To overcome this problem, this article proposes an alternative, 'interstitial' understanding of politics that locates politics at the intersections of idiographic, purposive, ethical and instrumental forms of reason and action. This understanding of politics enables us to rethink the nature of institutional rationality, and in turn the bases of international legal obligation. Furthermore, it provides us with a conceptual framework that illuminates the relationship between historically grounded modes of politics and the legitimacy of particular institutional forms, including the modern system of international law. This argument is illustrated through an explanation of the sacral logic of obligation that undergirded the international legal system in the Age of Absolutism.
Keyword International law
International legal obligation
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: School of Political Science and International Studies Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 36 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 43 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Fri, 15 Nov 2013, 00:46:52 EST by Bronwyn Clare Crook on behalf of School of Political Science & Internat'l Studies