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International Court Authority$
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Karen J. Alter, Laurence R. Helfer, and Mikael Rask Madsen

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795582

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198795582.001.0001

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International Court Authority in a Complex World

International Court Authority in a Complex World

(p.3) 1 International Court Authority in a Complex World
International Court Authority

Karen J. Alter

Laurence R. Helfer

Mikael Rask Madsen

Oxford University Press

This introductory chapter locates this book’s approach within the dominant approaches to studying the authority of international institutions. The scholarship on authority is vast; the chapter focuses on four key perspectives: legal formalist approaches; normative approaches, including legitimate or ideal authority; sociological legitimacy theories; and compliance studies and performative approaches. The framework developed in this book to measure de facto authority makes a number of bold conceptual claims that challenge these existing scholarships on international courts (ICs). Perhaps most controversially, the book separates the study of authority from the study of legitimacy and argues that IC authority can be identified and assessed by studying the practices of key audiences—litigants, similarly situated potential litigants, governments, judges, and other communities. Finally, the framework rejects a number of claims voiced in global governance debates which assume that IC authority is an all-or-nothing binary.

Keywords:   authority, international institutions, international courts, ideal authority, legitimacy, de facto authority, IC authority

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