The Politics of Leverage in International Relations

Part of the series Palgrave Studies in International Relations Series pp 105-122

Ain’t that a Shame? Hypocrisy, Punishment, and Weak Actor Influence in International Politics

  • Joshua W. Busby
  • , Kelly M. Greenhill


It is now widely understood that one way relatively weak actors compensate for material deficiencies in interactions with more powerful counterparts is by harnessing the power of norms and employing them as nonviolent instruments of persuasion. The most commonly recognized manifestation comprises public exposure of observable gaps between actors’ ostensible normative and legal commitments and their actual behavior, as first outlined and explored in Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink’s (1998) enormously influential Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Indeed, an entire literature has grown up around the study of these so-called naming and shaming efforts, much of it quite valuable in helping us understand the role of norms in international politics. Still, more than a decade and a half after publication of Keck and Sikkink’s volume, a shared understanding of the specific causal mechanism(s) behind successful and failed naming and shaming efforts has remained elusive, as has identification of the conditions under which such efforts will be undertaken and when they will succeed and fail.1