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Fordham University School of Law




In State Succession and Commercial Obligations (2006), Tai-Heng Cheng applies the New Haven School methodology to an opaque and unsettled body of international law: that governing the commercial rights and duties of states, creditors, and other participants in the unruly process of state succession. Rather than work within inherited conceptual and doctrinal frameworks, which have seldom proved either helpful or descriptively accurate, Cheng provides a fresh perspective on the issues. He argues that a policy-oriented perspective on state succession ameliorates the "descriptive inaccuracy" and "normative deficit" of inherited theories. Part I of this review considers the former claim; Part II the latter. I find Cheng's analysis of state succession relative to commercial obligations sophisticated, pragmatic, descriptively comprehensive, and for the most part, normatively compelling. But it may be too ambitious. Defining disruptions to global commerce as the indicia of state succession tends to inflect, and at times to bias, the general analysis of the diverse phenomena that fall within the rubric of state succession. This commercial focus can obscure or normatively predispose our understanding and appraisal of equally vital, but non-economic, dimensions of state succession, including the core policy goals - self-determination and global order - that Cheng identifies and recommends. To a certain extent, this compromises the work's descriptive accuracy and normative appeal. But far from "failing to provide the very guidance that real-life decision makers expect from their lawyers," as critics of the New Haven School often charge, Cheng's policy-oriented analysis strikes me as more helpful to practicing lawyers and decision makers than anything that has preceded it.

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