Faculty Research Profiles


Professor Ian Johnstone

Ian Johnstone has focused his research on two broad tracks over the past several years: the role of law in international politics, and the security-related activities of international organizations. The former includes articles that have appeared in the American Journal of International Law, European Journal of International Law and Global Governance, culminating in a book entitled The Power of Deliberation: International Law, Politics and Organizations, published by Oxford University Press in 2011. Building on theories of deliberative democracy, the book explores the impact of legal argumentation on the conduct of international affairs. Its central claim is that to fully understand the dynamics of power in the international system, one must understand the dynamics of deliberation. Johnstone examines the argumentation in and around international organizations and posits that “interpretive communities” coalesce there, setting the parameters of legal discourse. He tests the impact of the discourse by looking at a variety of cases, from the interventions in Kosovo and Iraq, to quasi-legislative acts by the UN Security Council and debates in the World Trade Organization.

His interest in deliberation falls within the growing of body of international law/international relations (IL/IR) literature. In a recent book chapter on “Law-making by International Organizations: Perspectives from IL/IR Theory” (in Dunoff and Pollack eds Interdisciplinary Perspectives on International Law and International Relations: The State of the Art, 2012), Johnstone considers three clusters of international relations theory that serve as alternative lenses for analyzing so-called delegated law-making: rational choice, constructivism and discursive theory. He is now co-editing the Oxford Handbook of International Organizations, an interdisciplinary volume to which over 50 legal and international relations scholars are contributing.

Johnstone’s work on international peace and security has focused on the UN Security Council. In addition to articles and book chapters on the use of force, non-proliferation and peace operations, he has edited two books on peacekeeping, as well as the first two editions of the Annual Review of Global Peace Operations. This annual review is a source of data and analytical essays for policy-makers and practitioners engaged with peace operations undertaken by the UN, African Union, European Union and NATO. He has also published thematic essays on topical issues in later volumes of the review, as well as its companion Review of Political Missions.   

At The Fletcher School, Johnstone is currently teaching courses on international organizations, peace operations and international law/international relations theory. “In all of my courses I try to strike a balance between theory and practice, law and policy, and the UN and other organizations. I typically start with broad themes and concepts, then weave theoretical discussions throughout the more practical and policy-oriented content of the courses, using international organizations as a vehicle for exploring the interaction between law and politics in international affairs,” he says.