The Making of International Environmental Treaties
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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.
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Chapter 6: Conclusion

Gerald Nagtzaam


When examining regimes, the importance and complexity of the normative element has too often been neglected.1 This book has demonstrated that a focus on norm analysis can yield new insights into old problems. By better understanding how environmental norms come into existence and alter over time, more robust environmental regimes can be created to deal with seemingly intractable global environmental problems. This book set out to answer two questions. First, which international relations approach, neoliberalism or constructivism, has the greater explanatory power with regard to the formation and evolution of the core environmental norms in environmental regimes? Secondly, are the two frameworks complementary or antithetical? Is a synthesis possible? As stated in the introduction, neoliberalism has been the preferred analytical framework when examining global environmental regimes. However, the analysis undertaken in this book has revealed a number of deficiencies with the neoliberal approach in explaining norm development (or lack thereof). In contrast, constructivism, with its more contextual approach, provides a more satisfying and complex view of human motivation. The two case studies of Antarctica and whaling clearly demonstrate that neoliberals are unable to coherently account for altruistic actions within their analysis. The two case studies reveal that Vogler is correct in his analysis that ideas such as wilderness values are ‘largely inaccessible’ to the neoliberal camp and constitute a major flaw in their ontology and epistemology.2 The neoliberal conception of regime theory, with its emphasis on calculation, cannot adequately explain concepts such as ‘uniqueness’ or ‘beauty’ applied to the global...

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