Friday, September 6, 2013

Note on norm enforcement

In the conclusion of their article "The Political Economy of Imperialism, Decolonization and Development" (British Journal of Political Science, July 2011), E. Gartzke and D. Rohner refer to "American enforcement of a norm of territorial integrity,...[which] could decay if the United States weakens or developing states become more capable of conquest."

I don't think this statement, especially the first part of it, is very convincing. The territorial integrity norm is quite deeply internalized by most states, making its enforcement largely unnecessary. In other words, its effectiveness is not generally dependent on enforcement by a powerful state. That situation conceivably could change but there are few indications that it's going to change any time soon.

From linkage at DofM I see that Richard Price (who wrote a book on the chemical weapons taboo) is making a rather similar point about the norm against chemical weapons use: it will continue to be generally observed, even if the U.S. does not enforce it by taking military action against Assad. (I haven't read Price's piece yet, however.) It might be interesting to compare the number of times these two different norms (territorial integrity and chemical weapons) have been violated in recent decades, by whom, and with what consequences.

[Note: post edited slightly after initial posting]


Phil Arena said...

That's reasonable. If strong norms are in operation, the notion that they depend on the US is suspect.

LFC said...

thanks for commenting, also for drawing my attn to that piece.

chaosandgovernance said...

Yes, the territorial integrity norm seems to have a strong autonomous base in both Africa and SE Asia, to give just two regional examples (although this doesn't preclude extensive interference in each other's domestic affairs). But if the US declined then there might be other structural processes - such as collapse of global free trade - that would create pressures on norms of territorial integrity. Norms aren't eternal - after all, colonialism itself was once normative within international society.