chapter  6
11 Pages

International law as a unitary system

ByAnthony D’Amato

The thesis of this chapter is that rethinking international law as a unitary system will yield important insights into the still controversial questions of how international law works and what role it plays in international relations. It begins by clarifying some of the key terms used in international law, especially the distinction between consensual and nonconsensual law. It then argues the case for using a systems analysis perspective in order to build in the international legal system (ILS) as an actual player in the international relations game. The presence of the ILS transforms what was previously analyzable as a two-person zero-sum game (between A and B) into a three-person non-zero-sum game (A, B, and the ILS). Under game theory, twoperson zero-sum games can reach a maximin result solely through conflict (acts of war). By taking active part in the game, the ILS necessitates some resort to cooperation in order to bring the game to the equilibrium point. ILS is a purposive self-regulating system hardwired in favor of cooperation.