Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Law of Nations
Jeremy A. Rabkin
The law of nations was the old term for what is now called international law, which purports to establish rules and obligations of sovereign states. It is obviously a special kind of law or a quite imperfect law because no international authority can enforce this law in the same way that states enforce law on their own people. In the history of political thought, however, this seeming imperfection made the law of nations an especially attractive model for general theories of law and justice. If each national government is obligated to honor the law of nations, then that law must have, in some way, a more fundamental status than national law. The law of nations was thus held to illustrate the fundamental principles of the law of nature. Some of the most influential writers on modern natural law presented their doctrines in treatises on the law of nations. In late ...