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The New Terrain of International Law:
Courts, Politics, Rights
Karen J. Alter

Winner of the 2015 International Law Best Book Award, International Law Section of the International Studies Association
Honorable Mention for the 2015 Chadwick Alger Award, International Studies Association

Paperback | 2014 | $35.00 / £24.95 | ISBN: 9780691154756
Hardcover | 2014 | $95.00 / £65.00 | ISBN: 9780691154749
480 pp. | 6 x 9 | 20 line illus. 20 tables. | SHOPPING CART

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In 1989, when the Cold War ended, there were six permanent international courts. Today there are more than two dozen that have collectively issued over thirty-seven thousand binding legal rulings. The New Terrain of International Law charts the developments and trends in the creation and role of international courts, and explains how the delegation of authority to international judicial institutions influences global and domestic politics.

The New Terrain of International Law presents an in-depth look at the scope and powers of international courts operating around the world. Focusing on dispute resolution, enforcement, administrative review, and constitutional review, Karen Alter argues that international courts alter politics by providing legal, symbolic, and leverage resources that shift the political balance in favor of domestic and international actors who prefer policies more consistent with international law objectives. International courts name violations of the law and perhaps specify remedies. Alter explains how this limited power--the power to speak the law--translates into political influence, and she considers eighteen case studies, showing how international courts change state behavior. The case studies, spanning issue areas and regions of the world, collectively elucidate the political factors that often intervene to limit whether or not international courts are invoked and whether international judges dare to demand significant changes in state practices.

Karen J. Alter is professor of political science and law at Northwestern University and a permanent visiting professor at the iCourts Center of Excellence, University of Copenhagen School of Law. She is the author of Establishing the Supremacy of European Law and The European Court’s Political Power.


"This pathbreaking book illuminates a quiet revolution that has reshaped international law, and it will change many readers' views about the new global legal system. . . . She masterfully demonstrates how, as the idea of global governance takes root, governments increasingly take pains to be seen as following the law--a development that has greatly increased the power of international courts and judges."--Foreign Affairs

"Alter argues that most observers have failed to comprehend the vast number of international courts and similar adjudicatory methods leading to numerous binding judgments regarding economic disputes, human rights, and criminal law. Tracking these developments in a clear and systematic way, she concludes that there is a zone of international relations governed by the rule of law."--Choice


"The New Terrain of International Law provides the most sophisticated account of how 'new style' international courts alter politics by reducing the monopoly power of governments to determine what the law requires. If you can read only one book on how international courts affect the politics of international law, this is the one to read."--Robert O. Keohane, Princeton University

"This book gives a definitive account of the growing significance of international courts in global affairs. While the European Court of Justice has been considered the gold standard of supranational courts, Alter demonstrates the breadth of supranational courts spread across the globe. Showing how litigation before international courts can be a powerful tool, her book holds central policy implications."--Thomas Risse, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

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      File created: 2/18/2015

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