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International law has enjoyed a recent renaissance as an important subfield of study within international relations. Two trends are evident in the recent literature. First, the obsession with theoretical labels is on the decline. Second, empirical, especially quantitative, work is burgeoning. This article reviews the literature in four issues areas — security, war, and peace; international trade; protection of the environment; and human rights — and concludes we have a much stronger basis for assessing claims about compliance and violation now than was the case only a few years ago. Still, the literature suffers from a few weaknesses, including problems of selection and endogeneity of treaties themselves and an enduring state-centric focus, despite the fact that researchers recognize that nonstate and substate actors influence treaty behavior. Nonetheless, the quality and quantity of new work demonstrates that international law has regained an important place in the study of international politics.


International relations, international law, treaties, treaty compliance and violation, state-centered focus, influence of non-state and sub-state actors on treaty behavior

Publication Title

Annual Review of Political Science

Publication Citation

13 Annual Review of Political Science 273 (2010).