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Unpublished Paper
International Law and Domestic Political Coalitions: The Grand Theory of Compliance with International Law
ExpressO (2010)
  • Joel P Trachtman

Compliance with international law is always dependent upon a domestic political decision to engage in the behavior that constitutes compliance. This article articulates the importance of the interdependence between home state domestic politics and foreign state domestic politics in determining compliance. International legal commitments allow the formation of domestic coalitions between those who will benefit by their own state’s compliance with the international legal rule in question, and those who will benefit from other states’ compliance with the international legal rule. The theory developed in this paper is based on established approaches to international relations in the political science literature, in particular the “liberal” theory of international relations associated with Andrew Moravcsik, the two-level game theory approach associated with Robert Putnam, and the “second image reversed” approach associated with Peter Gourevitch. The two extensions of these approaches made in this article, (i) from international relations more broadly to international law, and (ii) from adherence to compliance, raise some questions, and bear some important fruit. These extensions help to illuminate the problem of compliance. This article extends the rationalist approach to compliance with international law into the domestic politics of the target state. The model advanced in this article allows the formalization and contextualization of a variety of factors that have heretofore been viewed alone as explanatory variables in the decision to comply. Policy makers can use this model as an analytical template by which to assess whether their counterparties would comply with any undertakings they may make.

  • International law,
  • compliance,
  • liberal theory,
  • two-level games,
  • second image reversed
Publication Date
February 7, 2010
Citation Information
Joel P Trachtman. "International Law and Domestic Political Coalitions: The Grand Theory of Compliance with International Law" ExpressO (2010)
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