Global Governance Centre
Paths Panel, october 2020, Professor Wiener

Paths Panel: Norm(ative) Change in International Relations: A Conceptual Framework

Antje Wiener, Professor of Political Science and Global Governance, University of Hamburg, Germany
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Current contestations of the liberal international order stand in notable contrast with the earlier rise of international law during the post-cold war period. As Krieger and Liese argue, this situation calls for assessment of the type of change that is currently observed, i.e. norm change (Wandel) or a more fundamental transformation of international law – a metamorphosis (Verwandlung)? To address this question, this paper details the bi-focal approach to norms in order to reflect and take account of the complex interrelation between fact-based and value-based conceptions of norms.

The paper is organised in three sections. The first section presents three axioms underlying the conceptual framework to study norm(ative) change which are visualised by a triangular operation to analyse this change in relation with practices and norms. The second section recalls three key interests that have guided IR norms research after the return to norms in the late 1980s. They include, first, allocating change in and through practice, second, identifying behavioural change with reference to norm- following, and third, identifying norm(ative) change with reference to discursive practice. The third section presents the two analytical tools of the conceptual frame, namely, the norm-typology and the cycle-grid model. It also indicates how to apply these tools with reference to illustrative case scenarios. The conclusion recalls the key elements of the conceptual framework for research on norm(ative) change in international relations in light of the challenge of establishing sustainable normativity in the global order.


Antje Wiener, Professor of Political Science and Global Governance, University of Hamburg, Germany


Nico Krisch, Professor of International Law, The Graduate Institute


Erna Burai, Postdoctoral Researcher, The Graduate Institute


Read the paper here


This event is organised by the Global Governance Centre and is part of the ERC funded research project "The Paths of International Law".