Norms and Mass Atrocities

  • Aidan HehirEmail author


This chapter argues that norms, particularly weak regulative norms such as R2P, have limited influence in cases where actors consider that violating the norm is a matter of existential necessity. States always contend with a plurality and hierarchy of norms, which is itself subject to often sudden fluctuations. Returning to the framework outlined in Chapter  3, I argue that the distinction between R2P as a regulative and constitutive norm, therefore, has profound importance. A norm’s potency is significantly diminished if it is affirmed only to present an image to an ‘external’ audience rather than to facilitate or impel ‘internal’ change. This is particularly apposite if those states least inclined to meaningfully embrace the norm are precisely those states the norm is designed to influence. For states that have accepted R2P superficially, an internal threat of an existential gravity can quickly create an imperative to act in a manner which directly violates the affirmed R2P norm. In the absence of countervailing internalisation of R2P, the imperative to violently tackle this “threat” far outweighs any perceived need to abide by R2P.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Politics and International RelationsUniversity of WestminsterLondonUK

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