Full Text

International Law: Understanding Compliance and Enforcement

Jana von Stein

Subject International Studies » International Law

Key-Topics international cooperation, multilateralism, social norms

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444336597.2010.x


Comment on this article   The anarchic nature of the international system has long been considered a “problem” for international law. If there exists no authority higher than the state, why do governments ever abide by the pacts they make with each other? As Keohane (1984 :99) notes, “The puzzle of compliance is why governments, seeking to promote their own interests, ever comply with rules” that are not in their immediate self-interest. Similarly, Franck (1988 :705) muses, “The surprising thing about international law is that nations ever obey its strictures or carry out its mandates.” International law has puzzled scholars and policy makers for centuries. Is international law really “law”? When do – and don't – states comply? Who enforces international law, and why should governments expect their cooperation partners to abide by their commitments at all? If we do observe compliance, what – if anything – does this tell us about the usefulness of international law as a tool for effecting real changes in state practice? This essay engages these and related questions, drawing chiefly from the political science literature, but also from scholarship in international law, economics, and political philosophy. Understanding the “compliance and enforcement” debate is in part an exercise in definitions. Introductory textbooks often define (public) international law as a body of rules ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top