Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law School and Eric Posner of the University of Chicago Law School articulate a comprehensive and engaging theory of state behaviors in their new book, “The Limits of International Law,” but with several internal flaws. Their book uses rational choice theory to explain how states act rationally to maximize their interests, and how, in doing so, states align themselves (sometimes) with international law. This book review argues that while Limits is a skilled and pioneering work that deserves to be taken seriously, it also suffers from tensions and over-generalizations that undermine its claims. As a result, I posit, Limits may be construed to undermine the importance of international law, thereby diminishing respect for it in the U.S. and abroad. The review concludes that the insights of Limits must be refined and clarified through deeper theoretical analysis and through examination of specific episodes of state behavior.
GW Paper Series
GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-34; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2012-34
Edward T. Swaine, Restoring (and Risking) Interest in International Law, 100 Am. J. Int'l L. (2006).