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Hard and Soft Law in International Governance

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  • Abbott, Kenneth W.
  • Snidal, Duncan
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    Abstract

    Contemporary international relations are legalized to an impressiveextent, yet international legalization displays great variety.Afewinternational institutionsand issueareas approach the theoretical idealof hard legalization,but most international law is soft indistinctive ways. Here we explore the reasons for the widespreadlegalization of internationalgovernance and for this great variety inthe degrees and forms of legalization.1We argue that internationalactors choose to order their relations through international law anddesign treaties and other legal arrangements to solve specificsubstantive and political problems.We further argue that internationalactors choose softer forms of legalized governance when those formsoffer superior institutional solutions. We analyze the benefits andcosts of different types of legalization and suggest hypothesesregarding the circumstances that lead actors to select specific forms.We do not purport to develop a full theory of law. Nonetheless,examining these political choices in the spare institutional context ofinternational relations may contribute to a better understanding of theuses of law more generally.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal International Organization.

    Volume (Year): 54 (2000)
    Issue (Month): 03 (June)
    Pages: 421-456

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    Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:54:y:2000:i:03:p:421-456_44

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