Since the early 1990s, the subject of compliance with international norms has attracted considerable attention among scholars working in both international law and international relations. As a result of the growing awareness of the relevance of the international legal order in what Franck has termed the “post-ontological era” of international law, the chief topic of debate among international lawyers and political scientists has shifted from the existence of international law to the conditions of its existence, such as its fairness, legitimacy and effectiveness. As such, the question of why States comply with international legal norms has become a central area of enquiry for scholarship bearing on international law.
Markus Burgstaller’s book, Theories of Compliance with International Law, is an important contribution to the literature relating to the compliance question. This work is both the fruit of academic reflection, which took place during Burgstaller’s studies at NYU law school and Vienna University law school, where an early version of it was submitted as a dissertation, and assistant professorship at the latter’s Institute of International Law and Relations, as well as practical experience in the field, owing to the author’s work as an adviser on European and International Affairs to the Chancellor of Austria.
On the whole, this book constitutes a thorough overview of the problem of compliance in international law as well as a useful starting point for students and scholars interested in this question. As its title indicates, this book’s approach is theoretical in it’s nature, as opposed to empirical, and therefore seeks to lay out the conceptual groundwork of the compliance question.