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Vol 21 No 10 Oct/Nov 2016

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The Perils of Global Legalism


ISBN13: 9780226675756
Published: March 2012
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Country of Publication: USA
Format: Paperback (Hardback in 2009)
Price: £16.00
Hardback edition , ISBN13 9780226675749



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The first two years of the Obama administration have led to expectations, both in the United States and abroad, that in the coming years America will increasingly promote the international rule of law - a position that many believe is both ethically necessary and in the nation's best interests.

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.