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Symposium: Interrogating the Use of Norms in International Relations: An Introduction

Charlotte Epstein
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1528-3585.2012.00463.x 121-122 First published online: 1 May 2012

This symposium is the outcome of an initial workshop held at the University of Sydney in March 2009. Two decades into the reflectivist turn, its purpose was to open up a space for critically re-examining a concept whose widespread currency in the study of international politics today is a testimony to constructivism's success in providing alternatives to rationalist approaches. What was less clear was whether this success had been accompanied by sufficient self-reflective scrutiny to unsettle a persistent underlying assumption that, coarsely put, norms are “good things”; that they are what bring states together to co-operate with one another beyond their narrowly conceived national interests; or better still, that they spread co-operative, liberal values throughout the international system, thereby socializing its actors into “better” behavior.

A key question prompted by this success is whether constructivism has …

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