Normative Innovation and the Great Powers

Justin Morris

in International Society and its Critics

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780199265206
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601866 | DOI:
Normative Innovation and the Great Powers

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In this final chapter, The author asks whether the shift from a multipolar to unipolar society of states has led to normative change in international society, using the norm prohibiting the use of force as a case study, and arguing that although material changes in international society do have an impact, the norms that underpin international society are not infinitely malleable and constrain even powerful actors like the USA. He begins his chapter with a discussion of the relationship between power and norms, which reinforces the linkages between English School of International Relations and constructivist approaches identified in Ch. 4 by Reus‐Smit. The author dismisses the realist and materialist arguments that norms play, at most, a peripheral role in international life, by arguing that even powerful states prefer to act in accordance with international rules. In relation to the use of force, he argues that it is very difficult to find a case since 1945 where a state has not sought to justify its use of force with reference to the rules governing that discussion. After charting the evolution of norms pertaining to the use of force and the globalization of international society, he turns to the post‐September 11 era, arguing that although the USA continues to follow the rules to a large extent, its attempt to act as a ‘normative innovator’ by claiming an exceptional right to self‐defence poses a grave danger to both the UN and the system of law that underpins the society of states.

Keywords: constructivism; English School of International Relations; force; globalization; international law; international relations; international rules; international society; materialism; multipolar society of states; normative change; normative innovation; norms; power; realism; self‐defence; September 11; society of states; unipolar society of states; UN; USA; use of force

Chapter.  9147 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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