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Norm Contestation: A Theoretical Framework

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Norm Contestation

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Abstract

This chapter demonstrates how a norm contestation framework can helpfullyexplain behavioral variation within norms. This approach explores how actors’ interpretations of a norm’s logic of appropriateness, as informed by the logic of practicality and the logic of contestedness, may impact intersubjective agreement between norm enforcers and norm users. In doing so, it elucidates aspects of norms not captured by useful explanations rooted in the norm diffusion process or materialist motivations. These frameworks tend to focus on behavioral variation in instances where actors have not yet subscribed to a norm or intentionally violate it to further material interests. Rather than solely seeking to explain actor behavior, a norm contestation framework scrutinizes actors’ understandings of their normative obligations. It concentrates on ambiguous normative environments in which various actors may differently interpret those obligations and norm enforcers’ powers are weakened. In these instances, intersubjective agreement is fluid and shaped by background information and local contexts, concepts incorporated into the logic of practicality (Brunnée and Toope 2010) and the logic of contestedness (Wiener 2007).

An important aspect of engagement with legal pluralism is to understand the fault lines between different legal orders in order to avoid any overlap likely to be marred by ambiguity and contestation (Dinnen 2010: 329).

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Notes

  1. 1.

    International relations theories, especially constructivist theories, also discuss other types of logics. For example, Thomas Risse (2000: 1-2) advances the logic of arguing where “human actors engage in truth seeking with the aim of reaching a mutual understanding based on a reasoned consensus… challenging the validity claims involved in any communication.”

  2. 2.

    Compliance occurs “when the actual behavior of a given subject conforms to prescribed behavior…” (Young 1979). A question raised later in this chapter as under-scrutinized in norms research regards the power dynamics in determinations of whether a particular action is norm-compliant.

  3. 3.

    Intersubjective agreement on a norm’s general purpose enables it to emerge (Finnemore and Sikkink 1998). That is, actors agree that the norm should belong in the global normative structure. It continues to exist as long as this base level of intersubjective agreement persists. If intersubjective disagreement erupts over the continued necessity of the norm, actors may be engaged in justificatory contestation whereas disagreements over specific elements while maintaining agreement on the overall purposes of the norm may be evidence of applicatory contestation, the subject of this book. Both types of contestation are discussed below.

  4. 4.

    Chapter 6 discusses how this interactional framework can serve as a useful guide to practitioners for how to create intersubjective agreement within norms.

  5. 5.

    There is a growing literature exploring norm death (for example, see McKeown 2009).

  6. 6.

    These accounts are discussed in further detail on page 33.

  7. 7.

    To view the argument that these acts were patently norm violations, see Paust 2005.

  8. 8.

    While Glanville classifies humanitarian intervention as a norm, there is no scholarly consensus on its normative status.

  9. 9.

    A discussion of permissible and impermissible civilian targets can be found in Chap. 3.

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Jose, B. (2018). Norm Contestation: A Theoretical Framework. In: Norm Contestation. SpringerBriefs in Political Science. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69323-1_2

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