Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 8-1-1967


The only way in which international law can command respect and obedience among its intended adherents is by merging its basic principles with political and social reality. Otherwise, it becomes little more than a collection of idealistic norms unrelated to the observable facts and the operative forces in the relations of states. In an attempt to indicate the results of separating law from reality, this paper analyzes one principle of international law, the doctrine of equality of states. The doctrine is traced from its origin in naturalism, to eighteenth and nineteenth century voluntaristic positivism and, finally, to a non-theoretical application made by the new nations of the twentieth century in the United Nations system. As an aid by which to examine the relation between political reality and the doctrine as applied by the naturalists, positivists, and the new nations, a theoretical structure designated as a sociological perspective of international law is constructed. By analyzing each application of the doctrine in light of this sociological perspective, this paper attempts to indicate the evolution of the doctrine from a state of idealism, as represented by the naturalist deduction of legal norms from divine revelation, and from a state of iertness, as represented by the positivist derivation of norms from the sovereign will of the state, to a semblance of realism, as represented by the new nations and their emphasis on deriving pragmatic means to obtainable ends.