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Vol 21 No 10 Oct/Nov 2016

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Perils of Global Legalism

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ISBN13: 9780226675749
Published: September 2009
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Country of Publication: USA
Format: Hardback
Price: £21.50
Paperback edition , ISBN13 9780226675756



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The arrival of the Obama administration has led to expectations, both here and abroad, that in the coming years the United States will increasingly adhere to international law - a position that many believe is both ethically necessary and in the nation's best interest. The rule of international law, they argue, is surely better than the chaos of nations acting toward their own ends. With "The Perils of Global Legalism", Eric A. Posner explains that such views demonstrate a dangerously naive tendency toward legalism - an idealistic belief that law can be effective even in the absence of legitimate institutions of governance. After tracing the historical roots of the concept, Posner carefully lays out the many illusions - such as universalism, sovereign equality, and the possibility of disinterested judgment by politically unaccountable officials - on which the legalistic view is founded. Drawing on such examples as NATO's invasion of Serbia, attempts to ban the use of land mines, and the free-trade provisions of the WTO, Posner demonstrates throughout that the weaknesses of international law confound legalist ambitions - and that whatever their professed commitments, all nations stand ready to dispense with international agreements when it suits their short- or long-term interests. Provocative and sure to be controversial, "The Perils of Global Legalism" will serve as a wake-up call for those who view global legalism as a panacea - and a stern reminder that international relations in a brutal world can only be addressed with a hard-headed realism.