In This Issue – Reviews

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This issue features two review essays and one regular (in-depth) review. We begin with Rián Derrig’s detailed engagement with International Law as Behavior (Harlan Grant Cohen and Timothy Meyer, eds.), an ‘agenda-setting’ collection of essays that reflects on the rise of behaviouralism in international legal studies. In his essay, ‘What Can a Few Make of Mankind?’, Derrig agrees with the editors and contributors that ‘‘behaviouralism is ascendant’ (Anna Spain Bradley). However, he views this ascendancy as problematic for a number of reasons. In his view, behaviouralism is concerned with critiquing (while at the same time trying to fulfil or correct) the rationality of actors – an idea that has been rejected by many disciplines, and its importation into legal studies ignores insights into behaviour from the likes of legal realism. He also notes, thinking with Arendt, that there is a risk that ‘behaviouralism may inaugurate a politics of passivity’.

Next up is Benoit Mayer’s essay on attempts to distinguish between procedure and substance. In his view, the distinction, while regularly used, overshadows more useful distinctions, such as that between ‘principal’ and ‘accessory’ obligations. Mayer reviews three recently published books, in French and English, on substance et procédure en droit international public, but finds that they ‘do not convincingly explain what is being distinguished from what, or why this distinction needs to be made’.

Finally, we feature Andrej Lang’s review of Gráinne de Búrca’s Reframing Human Rights in a Turbulent Era, ‘ arguably one of the most important books in human rights scholarship in recent years’. In Lang’s view, de Búrca’s ‘experimentalist account’, illustrating the role of human rights through case studies, successfully counters the trend in scholarship critiquing human rights.

We hope you will agree that this is a Review Section that prompts reflection and encourages debate on crucial additions to the international legal literature. It certainly made us reflect. But we would like to end on a (self-)critical note: we began managing the Review Section around five years ago. In these five years, this is one of only two issues in which all reviews have been authored by male academics; in this respect, we are not happy with the shape of this section. Gender is of course only one parameter by which diversity should be judged. Yet, as far as this parameter is concerned, for some time now, the trend has not been our friend, despite our bona fide efforts. (For example, we have for some time commissioned more reviews from women than from men.) Our statistics and anecdotal evidence from email conversations with potential reviewers point to a number of factors that could explain why this is so. Women are more likely to turn down an invitation. The drop-out rate among woman reviewers has been three times higher than for male reviewers, at least since the start of Covid. Men are more likely to approach us to propose a review (which we do consider seriously, despite EJIL’s commitment to book reviews being ‘typically solicited’, as we note on the Journal’s website). Still, while these factors could go some way towards explaining the current state of affairs, the gender imbalance does leave us a bit puzzled. Could one explanation be that we are simply missing out on women scholars who are interested in reviewing, and bring to the Journal a good blend of critical distance and benevolence? If you think this is the case, please feel free to write to us at {at} gmail(.)com to suggest names of potential reviewers.

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