Share this

How to Do Things with International Law, Ian Hurd

Reviewed by Tonya L. Putnam



This book is a thought-provoking addition to the body of work that explores the relationship between international law and international politics.

A core theme of this volume is that international law and international politics are inseparable. Drawing on ideas from international relations, legal, and critical theory, Ian Hurd drives a conceptual wedge between what he calls “enchanted” views of international law that place it “above politics” and his view that powerful entities construct political interactions and environments with, and through, international law. Whereas liberal framings of the rule of law emphasize legal rules as constraints on behavior, Hurd explains that governments often try to use international law to justify or legitimate their own and others’ politically motivated actions. In the process, governments influence the boundaries of the legal definitions and categories in play. In short, when trying to “do things with international law,” states are also doing things to international law.

Among the book’s notable features is its attention to power differentials between states. Hurd argues persuasively that international law is often more influential as a tool of the strong than as a weapon of the weak. Although this is not an original idea, it is important, and it is well ill

To continue reading, see options above.

More by This Author

The Perils of Global Legalism, Eric A. Posner Reviewed by Tonya L. Putnam

Nations, States, and Violence, David D. Laitin Reviewed by Tonya L. Putnam

About PSQ's Editor


Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.


COVID-19: The Ongoing Financial Implications and the Long-Term Financial Outlook
May 28, 2020


Editor’s spotlight

Women and Politics

Woodrow Wilson and Woman Suffrage: A New Look
Christine A. Lunardini and Thomas J. Knock

How Women Vote
William F. Ogburn and Inez Goltra


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

New APS Book

Presidential Selection and Democracy   PRESIDENTIAL SELECTION AND DEMOCRACY

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS