Emergence, Development and Death: Norms in International Society

  • Colin WightEmail author
Part of the Social Morphogenesis book series (SOCMOR)


This chapter first outlines the dominant approach to norms in international relations, and on the basis of that analysis, demonstrates how morphogenesis can help illuminate how norms emerge, develop, change; and hence shape accepted modes of behaviour in the international political system. Essentially, the argument has two aspects. First, that the concept of a ‘norm life cycle’ is a useful way to consider how norms emerge, develop and die, but that it can be improved if placed within the context of morphogenesis. Second, that a fundamental aspect of late modernity, or the morphogenic society, is the manner in which cultural and structural elaboration now operate in (almost) the same temporal dimension. Cultural elaboration has an almost instantaneous impact on structural elaboration and vice versa. What explains this is the compression of time and space, which is itself explained by the emergence new modes of interaction, new technologies and the glimmers of an emergent global civil society. As a nascent, yet to be, society, however, its norms are highly dynamic, fragmented, fluid, constantly changing, and highly contested.


Norms International relations Rules Laws Norm life cycle Morphogenesis 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Government and International RelationsThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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