In the previous two chapters, we were concerned with how mechanisms, within and outside the international legal system, facilitated the successful implementation of international norms. Indeed, much of the focus of scholars and policymakers has been on how to ensure effective norms once they have been adopted. In the course of this enterprise, there is a tendency to ignore how the current shape of the international legal operating system influences the configuration of the international normative system. Accordingly, we reverse the causal arrow in this chapter and address that possibility.
If the configuration of the operating system were the only influence on normative system change, then the two systems would never be in a state of imbalance: only those norms that fit within the existing operating system would be adopted. From the last two chapters, we know that this is not the case. Furthermore, in Chapter 3, we noted that changes in the normative system could produce direct and sometimes relatively rapid changes in the operating system, although this was far from certain.
Reversing the causal arrow, we do not expect to find similarly strong relationships. Generally, the specific content of treaties, especially their normative prescriptions and proscriptions, will not be a function of the operating system provisions. Rather, one would expect that the preferences of those involved in drafting and signing the treaty, as well as the capabilities of those actors and the information available (Cook, 2004), determine the degree and direction of the cooperation.