You Can’t Tell Me What to Do! Why Should States Comply with International Institutions?

Journal of Social Philosophy (4):450-470 (2022)
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The tension between the authority of states and the authority of international institutions is a persistent feature of international relations. Legitimacy assessments of international institutions play a crucial role in resolving such tensions. If an international institution exercises legitimate authority, it creates binding obligations for states. According to Raz’s well-known service conception, legitimate authority depends on the reasons for actions of those who are subject to it. Yet what are the practical reasons that should guide the actions of states? Can states be bound by international institutions on all kinds of issues or are certain issues exempted because of sovereignty considerations? This paper argues that self-regarding reasons cannot ground political authority with the respective demand for compliance. Since reasons for states concern individuals both inside and outside of their jurisdiction and other state peoples, self-regarding reasons for states, which form a domain of personal pursuits or sovereign decisions, are highly restricted.

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Antoinette Scherz
Stockholm University


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