Processes of Norm Contestation In International Politics: Humanitarian Intervention and Scorekeepers in Global South

by Sasikumar S. Sundaram, PhD-candidate from International Relations and European Studies at Central European University, Budapest.

The proposed presentation builds on my PhD research, which examined the different patterns of practical reasoning of Brazil and India on the norm of humanitarian military interventions in their region, and extends its scope in terms of methodology and focus. It furthermore applies the deontic scorekeeping model mediated by pragmatist philosophy to understand the processes of norm contestation in international politics.

The critical constructivist scholarship in International Relations (IR) has been of great value in highlighting the limitations of mainstream scholarship on norm diffusion and also foregrounding the pragmatic idea of meaning-in-use. Some of the critical works have examined the contestability of norms in the international system and persuasively shown that differently socialized actors understand and interpret the meaning of norms and rules differently; therefore, contestations and negotiations are inevitable in international politics.

My presentation will be very much situated within this literature. But to the extent that norm contestation is studied within critical constructivist scholarship, it is conceived in static and substantialist terms and the processes of norm contestation remains elusive. In other words, while critical constructivists have focused on contested quality of norms based on its different “cultural validation,” the master concept of ‘culture’ here remains implicitly essentialist and the processes of norm contestation is not brought out into open. This gap biases the understanding of how norm contestations work in international politics.The central claim of my presentation is to situate norm contestation scholarship in IR within the context of analytical pragmatist philosophy and work within its central idea of deontic scorekeeping practices of agents. This alternative framework is based on the idea that norms are instituted in social practices by practical deontic attitudes of multiple scorekeeping agents, whose inferentially articulated commitments and entitlements are the crucial processes in the enactment of norm contestations by actors. Empirical illustration of actors' engagement with humanitarian military intervention will use to shed light on these points.