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

Winner of the 2015 Certificate of Merit for a Preeminent Contribution to Creative Scholarship, American Society of International Law
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 | $39.95 | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780691154756
480 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 20 line illus. 20 tables.
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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.


"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

"This is a solid and sophisticated volume and should be on the reading list of all those who are interested in international courts and tribunals. It provides a strong account of the rapid emergence of international courts and their role in the international political and legal systems. Additionally, the book would be an appropriate read for advanced classes in political sciences and international relations."--Chiara Giorgetti, H-Net Reviews

"In The New Terrain of International Law: Courts, Politics, Rights, Karen Alter provides the most ambitious, comprehensive, and successful analysis of this new world of international courts and the impact they have exerted on international and domestic law and politics."--Mark Pollack, Perspectives on Politics

"Alter's book elicits, and deserves, high praise. It is an impressive synthesis of an immense amount of new data that will provide grist for empiricists and set the standard for new work on international courts for years to come."--José E. Alvarez, American Journal of International Law


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