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The Continent of International Law
Explaining Agreement Design


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  • Date Published: April 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107561441

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About the Authors
  • Every year, states negotiate, conclude, sign, and give effect to hundreds of new international agreements. 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, the 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.

    • Designed for a broad audience but with rigorous theoretical underpinnings, so international law and relations scholars without a mathematical background will understand the intuition of all the hypotheses
    • Transcends issue area divides typical in this type of scholarship and will therefore appeal to both specialists and generalists and show how various issue and sub-issue areas are alike and different
    • Combines multiple methods and contains case studies for those who find it easiest to understand mechanisms through real-life examples but also features large-n testing that can confirm the theory
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    • Co-Winner, 2017 ILAW Book Award, International Law Section, International Studies Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'International lawyers (and students of international governance) take note: this book is one of the most significant contributions yet from the growing interaction of international relations and international law. Barbara Koremenos shows how states carefully design and apply the technical provisions of treaties - from duration to monitoring to precision - to address incentives, constraints and actor characteristics. An analytical tour de force, the book sheds new light on legalized cooperation.' Kenneth W. Abbott, Jack E. Brown Professor of Law, Arizona State University

    'The Continent of International Law is an insightful and thought-provoking analysis of treaty design. Koremenos illuminates the rich diversity of international agreements, shining light on procedural clauses often buried in the back of treaties that many scholars, government officials and lawyers overlook. The book's theoretical contributions are as important as the extensive empirical data it presents. A tour de force of rational design scholarship.' Laurence R. Helfer, Harry R. Chadwick, Sr, Professor of Law, Duke University, North Carolina

    'The Continent of International Law brilliantly generates empirical generalizations about the design of international agreements, demonstrating that a functional, or rational design, theory explains institutional design remarkably well.' Robert O. Keohane, Princeton University, New Jersey

    'Barbara Koremenos demonstrates the surprising reach and variation of international law and shows the extent to which the provisions of agreements reflect rational institutional design. International law is indeed a continent that we can clearly map using the tools of modern social science.' Stephen D. Krasner, Graham H. Stuart Professor of International Relations, Stanford University, California

    'This is one of the most systematic rationalist accounts ever of the cooperative dilemmas states face and the legal structures they create to resolve them. Koremenos's book is a triumph of argumentation and evidence that will spark debate across the disciplines of international law and international relations. Brava, Barbara!' Beth Simmons, Harvard University, Massachusetts

    'Koremenos … offers an important addition to the literature. The core of the text draws on a unique new data set (COIL) derived from a random sample of all international agreements submitted to the UN. This data allows Koremenos to test a series of hypotheses connected to the rational design of institutions by states … The text is one of the first to move beyond case studies in examining international agreements and organizations. In doing so, it is one of the first to allow making broad generalizations across all organizations and agreements … Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.' K. Buterbaugh, Choice

    'The book contains many elements which in one way or the other can be used for the analysis of international law pertaining to both polar regions. … The Continent of International Law should indeed be an inherent part of the analysis of polar legal design, contributing to the understanding of polar legal dynamics and actor behavior.' Nikolas Sellheim, Polar Record

    'Koremenos' book does a great job in bringing a sense of purpose back into public international law and balancing some of the premises pertaining to anarchy and state-centredness - present in disciplines such as international relations - and the fact that treaties do matter and are drafted with the intention of being functional. Also, providing a detailed empirically grounded explanation of various treaty strategies and provisions, this book can easily serve as a manual for diplomats actually involved in the drafting process. As a result, the book has a very broad appeal, since it is likely to offer valuable insights for students of public international law, researchers and practitioners alike. Koremenos' clear and accessible writing style clearly does the topic justice for that broad audience while simultaneously reinforcing her commitment to break the previously hermetic mould of the discipline.' Ignas Kalpokas, LCC International University, Lithuania and Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107561441
    • length: 456 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 152 x 28 mm
    • weight: 0.66kg
    • contains: 14 b/w illus. 1 map 61 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. (Re)discovering the continent
    Part I. Coil's Building Blocks: Theory and Data: Introduction to Part I
    2. Theoretical framework
    3. The coil sample
    Appendix to chapter 3 coding rules
    Part II. Flexibility Provisions in the Design of International Law: Introduction to Part II
    4. Duration provisions
    5. Escape clauses and withdrawal clauses
    6. (Im)precision and reservations
    Part III. Centralization, Scope, and Control Provisions in the Design of International Law: Introduction to Part III
    7. Dispute resolution provisions
    8. Punishment provisions
    9. Monitoring provisions
    10. Asymmetric design rules, voting, and power
    11. Conclusion
    Appendix 1. List of agreements in coil sample
    Appendix 2. Selection issues in international cooperation data sets.

  • Author

    Barbara Koremenos, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
    Barbara Koremenos is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. She has published in both political science and law journals, including the American Political Science Review, International Organization, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, the Journal of Legal Studies, and Law and Contemporary Problems. Koremenos received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award for her research - the first such winner to study international relations and law. She has been invited to give seminars at academic institutions in the United States, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Switzerland, and has spoken at the American Embassy in Copenhagen as well as forming part of a small-group panel at the State Department to discuss issues of nuclear proliferation.


    • Co-Winner, 2017 ILAW Book Award, International Law Section, International Studies Association
    • Runner-up, 2016 Chadwick Alger Prize, International Organization Section, International Studies Association

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