Legitimacy in international law and international relations

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

47 Scopus citations


Over the past couple of decades, there has been an explosion of interest, both among international lawyers and international relations scholars, in the legitimacy of international institutions (IOs) – what Ian Clark (2005: 12) has described as a “veritable renaissance of international legitimacy talk.” Studies have: • historically traced the changing conceptions of legitimacy in “international society” and “world society” (Clark 2005, 2007); • theorized about the concept of legitimacy (Simmons 1999; Applbaum 2010; Buchanan 2010; Tasioulas 2010); • advanced general normative conceptions of legitimacy (Buchanan 2003; Buchanan and Keohane 2006; Caney 2009); • surveyed the legitimacy of different types of international institutions, including global governance organizations (Koppell 2010), international financial institutions (Porter 2001; Woods 2003, 2006); private governance systems (Cashore 2002; Bernstein and Cashore 2007; Schaller 2007); and public–private partnerships (Bäckstrand 2006); and • examined the legitimacy of particular international institutions, including, among others, the World Trade Organization (WTO) (Howse 2000, 2001; Weiler 2000; Howse and Nicolaidis 2001; Esty 2002; Cass 2005; Picciotto 2005;Conti 2010), the International Criminal Court (Danner 2003), the Security Council (Caron 1993; Sato 2001; Jodoin 2005; Voeten 2005; Hurd 2008), the treaty bodies of multilateral environmental agreements (Brunnée 2002), investor–state arbitral tribunals (Brower 2003; Franck 2005), the Global Reporting Initiative (Beisheim and Dingwerth 2008), the World Commission on Dams (Dingwerth 2005), and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) (Clapp 1998; Raines 2003). This recent burgeoning of interest in legitimacy represents a significant shift. Historically, neither international law (IL) nor international relations (IR) had paid much attention to the issue. International lawyers tended to focus on legality rather than legitimacy. And political scientists tended to focus on power and interests, rather than on normative factors such as legitimacy. The newfound concern about legitimacy reflects the growing interest by international lawyers in interdisciplinary studies and the greater openness of political scientists to constructivist perspectives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInterdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations
Subtitle of host publicationThe State of the Art
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781139107310
ISBN (Print)9781107020740
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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