This chapter develops the concept of an interpretive community to explain how and why argumentation structures international order and affects state behavior. First, it discusses the nature of interpretation and interpretive communities. It then considers the composition of interpretive communities and how they relate to formal international organizations. It explains two principal functions that interpretive communities serve: they set the parameters of legal discourse and, in effect, pass judgment on legal claims (thereby impacting compliance with law); and they define/interpret/extend the rules of international life (thereby impacting evolution of the law). The chapter concludes with a discussion of the legitimacy of interpretive communities, parallel to the argument at the end of Chapter 2 on the legitimacy of international organizations.
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