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Home EJIL Analysis Joint EJIL:Talk! and Opinio Juris Discussion: Karen Alter’s The New Terrain of International Law

Joint EJIL:Talk! and Opinio Juris Discussion: Karen Alter’s The New Terrain of International Law

Published on April 22, 2014        Author: 

Alter bookThis week we will be hosting a joint discussion, along with Opinio Juris, of Karen J. Alter‘s book The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights, recently published by Princeton University Press. Karen is Professor of Political Science and Law at Northwestern University. The book’s introductory chapter is available on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In 1989, when the Cold War ended, there were six permanent international courts. Today there are more than two dozen that have collectively issued over thirty-seven thousand binding legal rulings. The New Terrain of International Law charts the developments and trends in the creation and role of international courts, and explains how the delegation of authority to international judicial institutions influences global and domestic politics.
The New Terrain of International Law presents an in-depth look at the scope and powers of international courts operating around the world. Focusing on dispute resolution, enforcement, administrative review, and constitutional review, Karen Alter argues that international courts alter politics by providing legal, symbolic, and leverage resources that shift the political balance in favor of domestic and international actors who prefer policies more consistent with international law objectives. International courts name violations of the law and perhaps specify remedies. Alter explains how this limited power–the power to speak the law–translates into political influence, and she considers eighteen case studies, showing how international courts change state behavior. The case studies, spanning issue areas and regions of the world, collectively elucidate the political factors that often intervene to limit whether or not international courts are invoked and whether international judges dare to demand significant changes in state practices.

Opinio Juris will host commentary by William Burke-White (University of Pennsylvania), Jacob Katz Cogan (University of Cincinnati), and Tonya Lee Putnam (Columbia University). Here on EJIL:Talk!, we will hear from Nico Krisch (Institut Barcelona des Estudis Internacionals) and Antonios Tzanakopoulos(Oxford University). Karen will respond to the comments on both blogs. We are grateful to her and all of the commenters for contributing to this symposium.

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