Socializing States: Promoting Human Rights Through International Law

Over the decades, states and organizations have established a large body of international human rights law. But does it really influence the way governments behave? In this sophisticated study, Goodman and Jinks argue that international law affects states primarily through a process of socialization, in which state officials and other actors take on the beliefs and norms of others in their surrounding environment. Peer pressure, mimicry, identification, and the search for status are some of the factors that Goodman and Jinks believe bend states in the direction of the prevailing international human rights laws. The authors usefully summarize empirical studies that demonstrate that states have a tendency to imitate best practices in areas such as education, market liberalization, the environment, arms control, science policy, and human rights. The book leaves no doubt that in various circumstances, national decision-makers might well be motivated by social pressure and learning dynamics to adhere to internationally acceptable norms of state behavior. Although the book does not actually settle the question of when, how, and under what conditions states are socialized into accepting the prevailing norms of human rights, it suggests a rich agenda for further research.

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