Enriching Rational Choice Institutionalism for the Study of International Law

Institutionalism in International Relations applies insights from economics, game theory and collective action theory, all forms of ra-tional choice, to analyze situations where international cooperation is beneficial, mechanisms of cooperation, and forms of cooperation ranging from intergovernmental organizations to decentralized policy coordination. Only recently has Institutionalism, or other forms of rational choice outside of International Relations, such as law and economics, been applied to the study of international law, a unique international institution; it still has many important contributions to make in that field. However, by restricting its scope to interactions among states and purely rationalist accounts of state behavior, Institutionalism has limited its utility in analyzing areas of law and governance in which nonstate actors play important roles, international regimes interact with domestic politics, and international actors deploy a variety of norms and policies. To address this problem, this article continues an ongoing effort to develop a richer Institutionalist theory by incorporating insights from other International Relations paradigms. The goal is to develop a positive theory of international institutions that is more congruent with, and therefore can better explain, the complex dynamic realities of international politics and the dynamic institutions of law and governance those politics produce.

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