Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, International Studies. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 06 December 2023

Strategic Use of Law in Global Politicslocked

Strategic Use of Law in Global Politicslocked

  • Kyle ReedKyle ReedBerlin Potsdam Research Group “The International Rule of Law – Rise or Decline”


Although international law is often understood as a system of restraint—rules meant to constrain what states or other actors may do—attention has increasingly shifted to its use as a strategic tool. Actors often employ international legal references and claims in support of their policy decisions. Law’s status as a unique type of social norm, one that reflects supposedly neutral and agreed-upon rules, gives it a unique place in international politics, which actors may benefit from through the strategic use of international law and legal references in different political arenas. Understanding the place of international law in politics, then, requires understanding how, why, and when actors strategically use it and to what effects. In response to these questions, international relations scholarship has begun to develop new theories to better understand the use of international law in politics—why actors employ it and what makes it effective. This combines insights from rationalist approaches to politics—highlighting the role law can play as a coordination device—with more constructivist ideas on discourse and identity. By identifying the different actors who use international law, and the varied ways in which it can and is employed for strategic purposes, scholarship engages with questions of legalization but also the broader place of law in politics. Simultaneously, scholars have turned their attention to the use of law in different areas of politics. This has set the stage for further scholarship not only on the use of law, or the effect of these uses on political outcomes, but also on the relationship between such strategic uses of law and the meaning and place of the law itself.


  • International Law

You do not currently have access to this article


Please login to access the full content.


Access to the full content requires a subscription