International Law in World Politics: An Introduction

February 24, 2011

Author: Shirley V. Scott

Edition: Second revised

Publisher: Lynne Rienner

Pages: 325

Price: £17.95

ISBN 9781588267450

The study of international law in the contemporary period is no longer confined to a small cadre of specialist lawyers. Not only has it grown substantially as an important field within legal studies, it has also become an integral part of the study of international relations or world politics more generally. Indeed, Shirley Scott's text shows clearly just how deeply law and politics are intertwined at all levels from the local through to the global, although she also argues that law has a certain autonomy without which it would be little more than an expression of political power and interests.

The first five chapters introduce the reader to the relationship between international law and world politics, the centrality of the state, the role of intergovernmental organisations as well as non-state actors, and the structure of international law from its basis in both natural law principles as well as positive law to the system of rules, principles and concepts that underpin its operation at a practical level.

Chapter six addresses the key issue of the use of force and the limitations that international law attempts to place on it. Here it is observed that the most powerful states often seem to get away with behaving as bullies, tempting one to believe that international law is of little consequence. Chapter seven follows with some critical discussion of how legal argumentation is often deployed as a form of political manoeuvring and makes the important point that because legal analysis often appears to be apolitical, this actually makes it more serviceable in the pursuit of political objectives.

The next two chapters move on to the practicalities of multilateral treaties. A useful explanation of how to read a multilateral treaty is followed by an account of how such treaty regimes evolve, as well as a critical assessment of their general utility. This discussion includes a consideration of the role of hegemonic states alongside that of middle powers, developing states and non-state actors, again highlighting the interplay of power, politics and law.

The remaining substantive chapters examine arms control, human rights law, humanitarian law and the environment, all illustrated by key cases. And the conclusion draws together the main themes and briefly considers issues for the future of international law, especially in the context of the rising power of the Asia-Pacific region in general, and China in particular.

Additional pedagogical features consist mainly of about 20 text boxes with cases, key arguments, chronologies and tables. There is a list of acronyms, but no glossary, which would have been additionally useful.

Overall, however, it is an excellent introductory text, engaging and accessible while providing critical debating points in the theory and practice of international law and politics.

Who is it for? Introductory courses in international relations and/or international law at either undergraduate or master's level.

Presentation: Clear and concise, with good use of interesting and important cases.

Would you recommend it? Yes.


A World Beyond Borders: An Introduction to the History of International Organizations

Author: David Mackenzie

Edition: First

Publisher: University of Toronto Press

Pages: 205

Price: £12.99

ISBN 9781442601826

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