The Continent of International Law
Barbara Koremenos (University of Michigan)
Every year, states negotiate, conclude, sign, and give effect to hundreds of new international agreements. In her recent book, The Continent of International Law: Explaining Agreement Design (Cambridge University Press 2016), Koremenos argues that the detailed design provisions of such agreements matter for phenomena that scholars, policymakers, and the public care about: When and how international cooperation occurs and is maintained.
Theoretically, Koremenos develops hypotheses regarding how cooperation problems like incentives to cheat can be confronted and moderated through law’s detailed design provisions. Empirically, she exploits her data set composed of a random sample of international agreements in economics, environment, human rights and security.
Her theory and testing lead to a consequential discovery: Considering the vagaries of international politics, international cooperation looks more law-like than anarchical, with the detailed provisions of international law chosen in ways that increase the prospects and robustness of cooperation. This nuanced and sophisticated “continent of international law” can speak to scholars in any discipline where institutions, and thus institutional design, matter.
After highlighting the main themes of her book, Koremenos will discuss one of her new research projects regarding the absence of formal international law in some areas of the world, asking the following question: When we don’t observe something, how do we know whether it is informal or nonexistent?
Barbara Koremenos is a professor of World Politics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Her main interests are in international law and international institutions. She has published extensively on these topics in edited books, book chapters, and refereed journals such as International Organization. She is one of the editors ofRational Design: Explaining the Form of International Institutions. The main argument of this book is that international organizations vary widely in key institutional features such as membership, scope, and flexibility because international actors are goal-seeking agents who make certain institutional design choices to solve specific cooperation problems they face in different issue-areas. Professor Koremenos is currently working on a book manuscript that centers on American exceptionalism in international Law. Prior to coming to Michigan, she taught in the Political Science Department at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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