The Making of International Environmental Treaties

The Making of International Environmental Treaties

Neoliberal and Constructivist Analyses of Normative Evolution

Gerald Nagtzaam

Gerry Nagtzaam contends that in recent decades neoliberal institutionalist scholarship on global environmental regimes has burgeoned, as has constructivist scholarship on the key role played by norms in international politics. In this innovative volume, the author sets these interest- and norm-based approaches against each other in order to test their ability to illustrate why and how different environmental norms take hold in some regimes and not others.

Chapter 1: Putting the Cart Before the Horse: Neoliberalism, Interests and Norms

Gerald Nagtzaam

Subjects: environment, environmental law, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


INTRODUCTION This chapter sets out to complete three tasks. • First, to interrogate the theoretical structure and underpinnings of the neoliberal institutionalist research agenda, its conception and treatment of norms. • Secondly, to provide a robust, representative theoretical model for use in evaluating the three case studies. • Thirdly, to establish which are the hardest questions challenging the efficacy of the neoliberal approach. Neoliberal institutionalism has traditionally dominated the study of international environmental agreements (understood as environmental regimes), but is now under challenge from other methodologies, particularly from constructivism. To date, neoliberals have been unwilling to test their results empirically through case studies, preferring to focus instead on developing theoretical viewpoints about global politics.1 Central to neoliberal analysis is the premise that principles and norms are the bedrock components of a regime and prescribe orthodox behaviour and proscribe what constitutes deviant behaviour.2 Norms, according to this analysis, shape states’ behaviour by ‘matching (exogenously determined) actor’s interests and therefore by serving as a “resource” with which to assert their interests’.3 Thus 1 Duncan Snidal, ‘Rational Choice and International Relations’, in Handbook of International Relations, ed. Walter Carlsnaes, Thomas Risse and Beth Simmons (New York: Sage, 2002), 73–4. 2 D. Puchala and R. Hopkins, ‘International Regimes: Lessons from Inductive Analysis’, in International Regimes, ed. Stephen D. Krasner (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983), 86. 3 Henning Boekle, Volker Rittberger, and Wolfgang Wagner, ‘Norms and Foreign Policy: Constructivist Foreign Policy Theory’, Tubingen Working Papers 34a (1999): 7. 28 Neoliberalism, interests and norms 29 the independent...

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