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Michelle Miao

The worldwide anti-death penalty movement has made significant progress since the late 1980s. A growing number of countries have abolished the death penalty, de jure or de facto, or significantly restricted the application of the death penalty. Yet a theoretical question at the heart of the anti-death penalty movement has rarely been explored by the existing literature: why are states willing to adjust their own practices and preferences in accordance with foreign influences and international norms? This chapter uses the socialization theory as a conceptual framework to assess the limits and advantages of various abolition-promoting strategies and mechanisms. In particular, through studying the death penalty practices in a few abolitionist as well as retentionist jurisdictions across the globe, the research found that acculturation-a process during which target states are motivated to comply with international norms and standards out of their concerns for international status and identity-has been a subtle yet powerful instrument for change in this field.