Working Paper No. 41: Navigating Norm Complexity

A Shared Research Agenda for Diverse Constructivist Perspectives - Working Paper No. 41 by Caroline Fehl

The International Criminal Court in The Hague (Photo: United Nations Photo)

The International Criminal Court in The Hague (Photo: United Nations Photo)

This Working Paper makes the case for devo­ting greater atten­tion to prob­lems of norm com­plexity in inter­national politics, parti­cu­larly to the social con­struc­tion of norm re­lation­ships. Re­cent Inter­national Re­lations (IR) re­search has high­lighted that global norms often re­main con­tested and malle­able even after their for­mal adop­tion, but has fo­cused on ex­ploring the dy­na­mism of single norms.

While norm conflicts or synergies are often dis­cussed as “ex­pla­natory factors” that may ac­count for the evo­lution of an in­di­vidual norm, PRIF Working Paper No. 41 "Navi­gating Norm Com­plexity. A Shared Re­search Agenda for Diverse Con­struc­tivist Per­spec­tives" by Caroline Fehl takes a dif­ferent per­spec­tive: it argues that norm con­flicts and norm sy­ner­gies are them­selves the sub­jects and pro­ducts of social con­struc­tion and dis­cursive contro­versy, and that we need to better under­stand the dy­na­mics of “norm linkage” that ge­nerate dif­ferent norm re­lation­ships. To this end, the paper pro­poses that con­struc­tivist norms scholar­ship can benefit from an en­gage­ment with rationalist theories of regime com­plexity, on the one hand, and pra­gmatist-inspired IR scholar­ship, on the other. By drawing on and con­tras­ting these dif­ferent per­spec­tives, the paper out­lines a joint re­search agenda that tackles the issue of norm com­plexity with a range of questions and heuristic tools. To il­lustrate how the agenda can be put in prac­tice, the paper dis­cusses link­age dy­na­mics bet­ween norms of pro­tection (as exemplified by the “re­spon­si­bi­lity to protect”) and norms of pro­se­cution (as ex­pressed in the Inter­national Criminal Court’s Statute) in de­bates about mass atro­city re­sponses.

Download (pdf, 321kb): Fehl, Caroline (2018): Navigating Norm Complexity. A Shared Research Agenda for Diverse Constructivist Perspectives, PRIF Working Papers No. 41, Frankfurt/M.