International Norms and Political Change

  • Citation: Finnemore, Martha and Kathryn Sikkink, “International Norms and Political Change.” International Organization, Vol. 52, No. 4 (1998): 887-917.
    • Topics:
    • IR Theories
    • Keywords:
    • International Organization
    • the relationship between norms and rationality

Norms have never been absent from the study of international politics, but the sweeping “ideational turn” in the 1980s and 1990s brought them back as a central theoretical concern in the field. Much theorizing about norms has focused on how they create social structure, standards of appropriateness, and stability in international politics. Recent empirical research on norms, in contrast, has examined their role in creating political change, but change processes have been less well-theorized. We induce from this research a variety of theoretical arguments and testable hypotheses about the role of norms in political change. We argue that norms evolve in a three-stage “life cycle” of emergence, “norm cascades,” and internalization, and that each stage is governed by different motives, mechanisms, and behavioral logics. We also highlight the rational and strategic nature of many social construction processes and argue that theoretical progress will only be made by placing attention on the connections between norms and rationality rather than by opposing the two.

Related Resources

  • Alternative Narratives for Arms Control

    Moodie, Amanda, and Michael Moodie. “Alternative Narratives for Arms Control.” The Nonproliferation Review 17, no. 2 (2010): 301–21.

    • Authors with Diverse Backgrounds
    Keywords: arms control, disarmament, Non-Aligned Movement, small arms, treaty regimes, humanitarian action
  • Women in Arms Control: Time for a Gender Turn?

    Dwan, Renata. “Women in Arms Control: Time for a Gender Turn?” Arms Control Today 49, no. 8 (October 2019): 6–11.

    • Open Source Results
    • Authors with Diverse Backgrounds