Saving Institutional Benefits: Path Dependence in International Law
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This project considers the pace of change in international law, focusing on sources of evolution and stagnation. I attempt to determine why negotiators defer to existing law in some situations and not others. To that end, this study explores country preferences towards the status quo in international negotiations. I hypothesize that deference to existing international law is more likely under four conditions. First, countries that have experienced a decline in relative power should promote deference to existing international law. Second, declining powers that have allowed private access by their citizens to existing international institutions should have greater domestic political pressure to protect those arrangements. Third, this relationship should be particularly strong if interested citizens are able to participate (perhaps through the ratification process) in subsequent negotiations. Finally, more complex negotiations (i.e., those including more participants) should result in greater deference to existing international law. The project tests these hypotheses with statistical analysis on a random sample of multilateral treaties, as well as case studies of negotiation practices in the United States, India, and the European Union. The analysis supports all four conjectures, and notes interactions between them.
SubjectPolitical Science, International Law and Relations
Political Science, General
international political economy
Indian foreign policy
US foreign policy
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