December 15, 2011
If international law lacks mechanisms of internal, coercive enforcement, can it really be considered law? Critics of international law typically insist that for international law to matter, it must be capable of affecting behavior through the threat or use of physical coercion by the state. In a recent YLJ article, Professors Hathaway and Shapiro examine whether alternative enforcement mechanisms exist and find in what they call "outcasting" historical and modern examples of nonviolent, externally enforced legal systems.
To illustrate outcasting (withholding from the disobedient the benefits of social cooperation and membership) as an effective method of law enforcement, the authors draw on examples from medieval Icelandic legal traditions, classical canon law, and modern international law. In doing so, Professors Hathaway and Shapiro effectively demonstrate why international law matters.