Research Handbook on the Sociology of International Law
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Research Handbook on the Sociology of International Law

Edited by Moshe Hirsch and Andrew Lang

Bringing together a highly diverse body of scholars, this comprehensive Research Handbook explores recent developments at the intersection of international law, sociology and social theory. It showcases a wide range of methodologies and approaches, including those inspired by traditional social thought as well as less familiar literature, including computational linguistics, performance theory and economic sociology. The Research Handbook highlights anew the potential contribution of sociological methods and theories to the study of international law, and illustrates their use in the examination of contemporary problems of practical interest to international lawyers.
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Chapter 16: Social networks and the enforcement of international law

Shai Dothan


Social network analysis has a growing influence on legal scholarship. By investigating social connections between individuals or institutions, hypotheses about their behaviour can be raised and tested. One of the key debates in social network analysis is whether interactions within the network can help improve the information held by its members (the ‘Bandwidth Hypothesis’) or do they instead corrupt the information held by the members by amplifying their biases (the ‘Echo Hypothesis’). The chapter argues that the network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which try to enforce the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on recalcitrant states, processes information well and complies with the Bandwidth Hypothesis. It draws on an earlier empirical study that used both quantitative and qualitative methods to show that NGOs focus most of their attention on severe violations and legally important cases. This study also showed that NGOs tend to focus on states that usually comply with international law rather than states that usually violate their international obligations. This finding has valuable implications for the understanding of reputational sanctions among states in the international arena.

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