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 Extrapolate the role of norms and institutions in IR
 Distinguish between communitarian and cosmopolitan
approaches to norms and morals governing the conduct of IR
Genesis of Normative theories in IR
• Chief proponent Mervyn Frost(1994)—that IR as an academic
discipline is normative itself
• That Normative theories gained prominence in the post-cold war
era becoz it was being overshadowed by the dominance of Realism
and Idealism as key paradigms
• Also that the fragmented nature of the international system as a
result of the cold war made it difficult to come up with universal
rules and norms governing IR
• Normative theorists attempts to clarify basic moral issues and
dilemmas of IR
• Frost (1994) used the secular Hegelian Ethical theory and came up
with a constitutive theory of individuality
• In this theory, he coined what are called settled norms of the
modern day IR theory and these are used to generate solutions to
the hard cases of IR
What are norms?
Does and don'ts in a given society or context
They stem from Ethics which philosophically concerns issues of
morality/moral judgments and the kind of justification which is attached to
We are talking about the right conduct in a particular circumstance
In that case, Normative ethics concerns the rightness or wrongness or good or
bad that expounds the system of moral values (Brown 1992).
Normative theory is primarily about understanding fundamental values of
international life, the moral dimensions of IR and the place of ethics in
The idea is to address the moral dimensions of IR and the wider questions and
debates generated by the discourse (Brown 1992)
It focuses on the state-centric global practices in a wide context of liberty,
distributive justice, sovereignty, violence, just war, human rights, humanitarian
intervention, responsibility to protect etc
Normative Issues confronting IR Today
Do human Rights override state autonomy?
To what extent is state sovereignty more important than human rights?
What is our responsibility for preserving human rights and justice?
To what extent is environmental issues a global concern?
Do gays and lesbians have rights?
• Normative theory posits that actors in the praxis of IR do have
alternatives and real choices and can always change their conduct
• That international order can be changed in any specified way and that
people ‘s normative ideas (norms, morals and principles) can shape the
order in which they live (Frost 1996)
• Normative debates in IR fall under the cosmopolitan and communitarian
approaches and these attempt to delineate the ethical limitations of a
state vis-à-vis issues of human rights, distributive justice, ethics of
intervention, environmental issues etc
• Acc to the communitarian approach, the autonomy of states is derived
from their membership of a particular community
• That the state as the only legal representative of a community has an
absolute right to autonomy
In that case, individuals must submit and accept to live according to the
limitations set by the highest authority, ie, the state.
This is however rejected and challenged by the Cosmopolitan mindset which
brings in a universal notion to normative matters in IR
cosmopolitan approach; posits that all individuals are part of the humankind and
are born with certain natural rights, which are applied equitably to everyone.
Against this, they argue that the universal rights possessed by the individuals
override the state autonomy of rights.
Meaning that state autonomy can be limited to universal human rights
Normatively, this addresses the question of human security vs state security
Unlike the communitarians who claim that individuals do not exist autonomous to
the community in which they are members, cosmopolitans advance the universal
argument that human rights are possessed by individuals as autonomous moral
agents, rather than as members of the community
Cosmopolitans reiterate that rights are inviolable individual values and
independent from any particular system of community
Regarding intervention: communitarians adopt the settled norm of nonintervention as underpinning the international order.
Belief is that a community has the right to develop its own social, political and
economic systems and individuals can not dictate on such a system.
As for Cosmopolitans: intervention is permissible or justified under certain
conditions like protection of human rights and social justice
On the distribution of justice: cosmopolitans argue for distributive justice and
equality for all through social institutions
Communitarians however; argue that justice can not be universalized (universal
justice)---that justice claims are only limited to communities which construct
social institutions not individuals