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Transcultural Friendship: Our Political Future

Chapter Five: The Emerging World Order

Section 6: Enforcement

 

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Japanese Doll Dance.

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Whatever the dispute resolving mechanism, there remains the problem of enforcement. Of course, having an independent, unbiased, and principled determination makes voluntary compliance more likely. However, critics argue the effectiveness of independent tribunals, especially ICJ, is severely impaired by the lack of enforcement capabilities.

 

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The first question is whether enforcement is even necessary. David Barkin in Law Without Sanctions and Adda Bozman in The Future of Law in a Multicultural World argue that the tie between social order and enforcement is not universal, although our ethnocentrism leads us to assume the connection is necessary. African and Asian cultures have operated without written legal codes and institutions of deterrence.

 

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However, it is misleading to say such systems operate without deterrence. The ultimate sanction in a tightly knit society is a social death -- ostracism. Such a consequence may be applied dramatically, as with excommunication, or subtly -- having one's name omitted from invitation lists, being refused usual discounts or benefits, having people maintain a slightly greater distance, and so on. Those applying the sanctions may not even recognize their actions as such.

 

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Such informal sanctions have an eerie pervasiveness, which can instill paranoia compounding the effectiveness of the sanctions. Such mechanisms have been effective in maintaining oppression against Blacks in certain areas of the United States, despite "black letter" equality across races. Because of the subtle and, perhaps, unconscious operation of such social sanctions, there is less basis to resist them. Unquestioning conformity is almost always going to be the only viable response.

 

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On the international sphere, informal sanctions may result in a slightly higher cost of doing business, a little less influence on other countries, a little less respect given to diplomatic officers, and the like. When these sanctions are imposed by many countries on one "violator", the cumulative nibbling can amount to quite a bite.

 

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Contrast this subtle mechanism with the more dramatic attempts by one country to punish another. China tried to punish Vietnam and the US has- tried to punish the USSR. In both cases the old platitude. "This is hurting me more than you" rang true. Furthermore, since the source of punishment was clear, it allowed the target to strengthen its resolve, making punishment ineffectual. No country is eager to sacrifice its dignity by bowing to pressure proclaimed as punishment by another country.

 

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The application and, hence, effectiveness of informal sanctions will increase as more countries realize their stake in the international order. When international dealings were less frequent, country A might not consider a breach by B of a contract with C to be of pragmatic concern to A. However, permitting the breach weakens the rule against breaches even as applied to contracts between A and, say, D. Thus, A will want to insure B's compliance. As each country looks more closely at the transactions between other countries, the certainty of informal sanctions following a violation increases.

 

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In the long run, far from being ineffectual, these informal sanctions may prove too potent. The risk is that the sanctions will be applied in an unprincipled, arbitrary, and unmonitored fashion. The risk is greatest when the population to be regulated is diverse -- honest misunderstandings could lead to sanctions which, because of their evasive nature, are not subject to appeal or reason. In the long run, it would seem better to institutionalize the laws to improve predictability and to assure that sanctions are imposed only after due deliberation. This is especially important in a world of rapid change where the rules need to be established by foresight more than tradition.

 

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Adda Bozman suggests that the above view might simply be a distorted application of Western biases. While cultural bias cannot be eliminated, one must not fall into the ethical abyss of cultural relativism. The non-Western alternatives are based upon static autocracies:

 

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Asian and African traditions had been at one for millennia in stressing the primacy of the group, assigning essentially role-playing functions to the individual, and keeping thought subordinate to custom and authority... No possibility thus existed either here [Asia] or in Africa of disengaging "law" as a separate system of norms, of fathoming "contract" as a structuring principle for human relationships, and of rendering rights and obligations in the language of legal abstractions (Bozman, The Future of Law in a Multicultural World, p. 162).

 

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It is doubtful that the social orders developed in the context of autocracy, lack of change, and cultural uniformity, can be readily translated to a rapidly changing, culturally diverse, world democracy or friendship. This is not to say that such cultures must adopt Western law. It is clear that tradition-bound cultures must evolve more principled and articulated social systems. These may still be quite different from Western conceptions and may require revisions in international law. Without such developments, the Asian and African cultures referred to by Bozman cannot offer viable models for world government.

 

 

 

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