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This chapter examines the sources of international law. International legal rules are not as easily located as their domestic law counterparts. Whereas at the domestic level, only a relatively small number of bodies are endowed with law-making powers, at the international level, all states have law-making capacity. Moreover, state acts are not the only source of international legal rules. The result is a mosaic of law-making processes, forums, and regimes. The chapter focuses on the two most significant sources of international law: treaties and customary international law. It then turns to the relationship between international law-making and the principle of state sovereignty. Finally, the chapter considers the body of non-binding norms, which increasingly permeates and regulates all facets of international life. This so-called soft law takes many forms; it is often highly influential in its own right and may harden into binding law over time.

Chapter

This chapter discusses international law (IL) and international relations (IR) theory. It studies legal theory in order to better understand what law is, and how IL compares with domestic law. The chapter then introduces the major schools of IR theory, with a focus on how they conceptualize IL and its role in enabling and constraining the conduct of international politics. The disciplinary estrangement between IR and IL began to ease at the end of the 1980s. By that time there were already important strands within IR, including the English School, that were seeking to explain the prevalence of cooperation in an anarchical international system. New generations of IR scholars began theorizing the role of IL in structuring international politics, particularly from the perspectives of liberalism and constructivism, as well as from a range of critical approaches.