Norms Without the Great Powers: International Law and Changing Social Standards in World Politics

ISBN : 9780198789871

Adam Bower
320 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jan 2017
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Can multilateral treaties succeed in transforming conduct when they are rejected by the most powerful states in the international system? In the past two decades, coalitions of middle-power states and transnational civil society groups have negotiated binding legal agreements in the face of concerted opposition from China, Russia, andmost especiallythe United States. These instances of a so-called 'new diplomacy' reflect a deliberate attempt to use the language of international law to bypass great power objections in establishing new global standards. Yet critics have frequently derided such treaties as utopian and counter productive because they fail to include those states allegedly most capable of effectively managing complex international cooperation. Thus far no study has offered a systematic, comparative study of the promise, and limits, of multilateralism without the great powers. Norms Without the Great Powers addresses this gap through the presentation of a novel theoretical account and detailed empirical evidence regarding the implementation of two archetypal cases, the antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty and International Criminal Court. Both treaties have substantially reshaped expectations and behaviour in their respective domains, but with important variation in the extent and breadth of their impact. These findings provide the impetus for assessing the prospects for similar strategies on other topics of contemporary global concern. This book offers a timely addition to the dynamic and growing literature on the practice and consequences of international governance and should appeal to academics, civil society experts, and foreign policy practitioners working in fields such as security, human rights, and the environment.


1 Introduction: Non-Great Power Treaties in International Relations
2 A Social Theory of Treaty Influence
3 Assessing Treaty Impact
4 Building a Community of Law: State Parties and the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty
5 Informal Adaptation: Non-Parties and the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty
6 State Parties and the ICC
7 Non-Parties and the ICC
8 Lessons from the Cases
9 Conclusion: Towards a Research Agenda on Non-Great Power Institutions
Appendix: List of Interviewees cited in the text

About the author: 

Adam Bower is Lecturer in International Relations at the University of St Andrews. He received his PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia in 2012. He has previously held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Oxford (Department of Politics and International Relations and Nuffield College) and the European University Institute in Florence, Italy (Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow). His work has previously been published in, among others, the Review of International Studies and International Studies Review.

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