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 2: The Gentle Art of Persuasion: Constructivism 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 has three objectives. First, it seeks to investigate critically the constructivist research agenda, with particular emphasis on its (re)conception and treatment of norms. Secondly, it endeavours to establish a robust, representative model of the role of norms that can be tested empirically in the three case studies chosen. Thirdly, it seeks to identify some hard questions that constructivists need to answer if their research project is to progress. All constructivists, with the possible exception of the postmodern branch of radical constructivism, cleave to two basic understandings of the human world: it is social and it is a construct.1 That is, the material world cannot be considered ‘objectively knowable’ because ‘the objects of our knowledge are not independent of our interpretations and our language’.2 Consequently, the constructivist research agenda is underpinned by two assumptions. First, the world is both social and material. Secondly, it is their social setting which provides agents with an understanding of their interests (indeed, it constitutes them). For constructivists, the agency/structure question is answered by an ontology of interaction or mutual constitution where neither agents or structures are reducible to the other and neither is made ‘ontologically primitive’. Such an approach opens up questions of interest and identity formation not answered by neoliberals, allowing an examination of agents’ interests that ‘emerge from and are endogenous to interaction with institutional structures’.3 1 Stefano Guzzini, ‘A Reconstruction of Constructivism in International Relations’, European Journal of International Relations 6, no. 2 (2000): 149. 2 Emanuel Adler,...

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