Thomas D. Grant

Publications & commentary

The recognition of states: law and practice in debate and evolution


Recognition of states has commanded fresh attention since the break-up of multi-ethnic federations in Eastern Europe. New state practice concerning recognition requires a new assessment of how we think about recognition. Thomas D. Grant shows how an old doctrinal debate over recognition has faded, but how and why writers continue to use the terms of that debate. Grant goes on to argue that international decision-making process, not doctrine, is the more important issue surrounding recognition today.


“Grant is to be congratulated for recognizing and documenting the European movement toward a collective process of recognition.” Vol. 95, American Journal of International Law (2010) 252–254.
“[A]n extensive study of recognition in broader context.” Vol. 32, Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law (2004) 661–712.


Author:Thomas D. Grant
Publisher:Praeger Publishers
Date:30 December 1999
280 pages
Buy from: [praeger/greenwood.com] or [amazon.com]

Longer Description

Thomas D. Grant examines the "Great Debate" over state recognition, tracing its eclipse, and identifying trends in contemporary international law that may explain the lingering persistence of the terms of that debate. Although writers have generally accepted the declaratory view as more accurate than its old rival, the judicial sources often cited to support the declaratory view do not on scrutiny do so as decisively as commonly assumed. Contemporary doctrinal preference requires explanation. Declaratory doctrine, in its apparent diminution of the role state discretion plays in recognition, is in harmony, Grant asserts, with contemporary aspirations for international law. It may seem to many writers, he believes, that international governance functions better in a conceptual framework that reduces the power of states to legislate what entities are states.

Grant proceeds from this analysis of the contemporary status of the old debate to ask what questions now take center stage. In place of doctrine, Grant argues, process is the chief issue concerning recognition today. Whether to recognize unilaterally or in a collective framework; whether to acknowledge legal rules or to let recognition be controlled by political calculus--as Grant points out, such questions concern how states recognize, not the theoretical nature of recognition. This is an important analysis for scholars and researchers of international law and relations and contemporary European politics.

Table of contents

  1. Preface
  2. Introduction
  3. The Once-Great Debate and Its Rivals
  4. The Declaratory Preference Examined
  5. Doctrines of Recognition: Textual Evidence
  6. Criteria for Recognition or Criteria for Statehood?
  7. The Process of Recognition—An Unsolved Problem
  8. The Yugoslav Recognition Crisis
  9. Conclusion
  10. Cases, Statutes, and Treaties Cited
  11. Selected Bibliography
  12. Index