Reading 7: Staton and Moore

Staton and Moore (2011). "Judicial Power in Domestic and International Politics."  International Organization 65: 553-587.


"Although scholars have made considerable progress on a number of important research questions by relaxing assumptions commonly used to divide political science into subfields, rigid boundaries remain in some contexts. In this essay, we suggest that the assumption that international politics is characterized by anarchy whereas domestic politics is characterized by hierarchy continues to divide research on the conditions under which governments are constrained by courts, international or domestic. We contend that we will learn more about the process by which courts constrain governments, and do so more quickly, if we relax the assumption and recognize the substantial similarities between domestic and international research on this topic. We review four recent books that highlight contemporary theories of the extent to which domestic and international law binds states, and discuss whether a rigid boundary between international and domestic scholarship can be sustained on either theoretical or empirical grounds. "


Why this reading?

Staton and Moore challenge the common assumption that international and domestic courts are situted in fundamentally different contexts, and therefore are best studied in separate litteratures. If they are right, in that research on international courts can fruitfully draw on research from the domestic level (and vice versa), much can potentially be won by improving rather than re-inventing wheels that are already rolling.

Questions for discussion

  1. Their argument targets political science, and the entrenched subfield divide between international relations and comparative politics. To what extent is the general problematique relevant also to law and philosophy?
  2. Are there any risks with downplaying the distinction between international and domestic law and politics?
Published Apr. 20, 2016 4:30 PM - Last modified Apr. 20, 2016 4:30 PM