Blinded by Delight?

A Plea for De-Moralising the Scholarship on Norm Entrepreneurs

In: European Review of International Studies
Carmen Wunderlich Department of International Relations and Development Policy, Institute of Political Science, University of Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg, Germany

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International Relations (ir) norm studies have long been stuck to a narrow understanding of the concept of norm entrepreneurship, limiting it to actors from the Global North and their efforts to spread western norms. Building on recent studies that focus on non-western or ‘authoritarian’ norm entrepreneurs, this paper highlights the limitations of academic discourse itself, which seems to be wedded to a particular notion of what ‘ideational commitment’ means and from whom it must emanate. Such a prefabricated understanding risks lauding some forms of norm entrepreneurship as ‘genuine’, while dismissing other cases as strategically motivated. Instead, the paper argues for ‘de-moralising’ the concept. Decoupling it from normative biases does not only reveal the full repertoire of norm entrepreneurial action (from cooperative to confrontational). It also shifts attention to contestation as modus vivendi of norm entrepreneurship, and to the political nature of norm dynamics.

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