Rules, Norms, and Decisions

On the Conditions of Practical and Legal Reasoning in International Relations and Domestic Affairs

By assessing the impact of norms on decision making, this book argues that norms influence choices by providing reasons rather than by being causes for action. It approaches the problem via an investigation of the reasoning process in which norms play a decisive role. Professor Kratochwil argues that depending on the strictness of the guidance that norms provide in arriving at a decision, different styles of reasoning with norms can be distinguished. To that extent, Kratochwil argues that "law" is characterized by a particular mode of reasoning that is a subset of "practical reasoning." While the focus in this book is largely analytical, the argument is developed through the interpretation of the classic thinkers in international law such as Grotius, Vattel, Pufendorf, Rousseau, Hume, and Habermas.


'Kratochwil's book marks a major event in international relations theory. It demonstrates persuasively that it will not do to think of the international realm merely in terms of social physics, with billiard-ball states bouncing and balancing about; not merely in the instrumental rationality of the irrepressible utilitarians, who now vie for hegemony via game theory. International life, he shows, like domestic life, is constituted of rules, norms and conventions that are not epiphenomenal adjuncts of 'structures', and that give meaning both to the nature of units as well as the reasons for their actions.' John Gerard Ruggie, Colombia University