International Law and Norms
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POL208: International Law and Norms
January 25, 2011
Midterm: January 11-february 8, part 3 of syllabus, stress on readings
•Lack of international government; realism – states are main actors, treaties
are temporary agreement of convenience, commitment to an obligation that is
•International law is much more regulated than realists perceive it to be so i.e.
Fisherman must be concerned with international waters, European quota of
amount fish, international ban on type of fish (whaling) – high regulation of
international environment; realists dismiss this aspect
•International law: Set of rules, norms, practices created by state to achieve
common goals with a minimum order between them (concerning issues of
international justice, rights and economic development) – move from order
among states to address questions concerning human rights.
•Objective: achieve some model of order among states, create an international
society of states sharing a minimum ground of common rules and practices,
to avoid the Hobbesian world of permanent conflict
•International institutions (different than organizations, can exist without any
organizational structure): exist amongst and created by norms, rules,
oParadox: traditionally, IR scholars tend to underestimate these rules,
norms and behaviors yet today they are a significant portion of
Historical roots of Intl Law
•Europe 16/17th c. minimum objective is to tame the effect of anarchy. Idea of a
law among states inspired by divine authority/natural law therefore
international law emerged as a set of principles derived from God and divine
rules imposed on rulers of Europe at this time. Christian principles in
conduct of war, obligation of alliances were derived from religious authority
i.e. using proportionate force derived from Christian principle of just
punishment. Forbidden to make alliances with non-Christian rulers therefore
no hanging with the Ottoman kings.
•Diplomacy emerges: Italian city-states had ambassadors/diplomats exchanged
between them. Prior to this, it was a rare occurrence because rulers did not
trust one another and was mostly done with exchange of hostages.
Ambassadors became a practical exchange of information.
•Natural law did not last, and move from religious authority to secular
sovereignty with the Treaty of Westphalia, which endorsed fundamental
principle of sovereignty based on territorial recession (rather than wars of
succession). Absolute authority – no room for compromise, right of one is
wrong for the other. This encourages war rather than peace.
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