Keene Status and Normative Power

normative power
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  Social status, civilization and the idea of a ‘normative power Europe’ Edward KeeneSam Nunn School of International AffairsGeorgia Institute of TechnologyTo say that the European Union (EU) is a ‘normative power’ is to say that it wields ‘power of an ideationalnature characterized by common principles and a willingness to disregard Westphalian conventions’(Manners 2002, 239). The EU stands for several clearly stated core principles – commitments to peace,liberty, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, social solidarity, anti-discrimination, sustainabledevelopment and good governance – which are different from the principles according to which the‘Westphalian system’ has traditionally been organised, and which it aims to diffuse through a variety of means across international society as a whole. One of the main roles of the EU, and perhaps even itsprincipal role, is thus to change the norms of the society of states. It does so not just by saying and doingthings, but in part simply by being different, by embodying different values that others wish to emulate.My purpose in this paper is not to contest this interpretation of the EU as it exists today, but tooffer some sociological and historical reflections on the idea that it is a ‘normative power’. There are twothemes to the discussion. First, I want to raise the question of what normative power is and where it comesfrom: what are the attributes of a state or international organisation that has normative power; and why dosome appear to have more of it than others? The latter question is especially important because it is notenough just to say that normative power derives from values: everyone has values; the critical issue is why some  people are able to make their   values the definition of what is ‘normal’. All values are normative, butthey are not in themselves normative  power  . What we are interested in is the ability to get others to acceptone’s values as an index of how they should behave. To describe the EU as a ‘normative power’ in anymeaningful sense is to say that it has that ability to a greater degree than many, if not most, otherinternational actors -- otherwise it would be better described as a ‘normative weakling’ -- and we thereforeneed to explain why it does so. Economic and, to a lesser degree, military resources are relevant toanswering this question, but I want to take seriously Ian Manners’ contention that normative power is‘power of an ideational nature’ and explore what ideational -- non-material and hence non-economic andnon-military -- attributes are crucial to it. Although there are several possible ways of tackling suchquestions, I will adopt a sociological approach here, drawing on Weberian and neo-Weberian ideas aboutsocial status and social closure. These concepts can help us to understand how people or groups withinsocieties in general are able to make their values ones that others wish to emulate, and so can provide astarting point for thinking about these issues within the context of international society. Beyond theparticular idea of normative power, this line of enquiry could also provide a sociological basis forunderstanding related notions in contemporary international relations theory, such as Joseph Nye’s idea of ‘soft power’ (Nye 2002, 2004 & 2008), or Michael Barnett and Raymond Duvall’s conceptualization of power as compulsory, institutional, structural and productive (Barnett & Duvall 2005).The second theme, which I will raise more briefly at the end of the paper, is that there are someobvious similarities, at least on the surface, between the EU’s ability to diffuse and shape normsinternationally today, and the way that European states in the past were able to set up a ‘standard of civilization’ in international law, and to present their own way of life in terms of a privileged set of ‘civilized’ values (Keene 2002: see also Dietz 2005 and Manners 2006). Indeed, several of the specificprinciples through which the EU’s normative power is said to be expressed – notably the rule of law and 1  good governance – directly correspond to similar ones contained in the earlier nineteenth-century notion of civilization. There are two distinct points here. First, it suggests that it may be relevant to think about thecontemporary EU not so much as the expression of a novel vision of a ‘post-Westphalian’ internationalorder, which is an important element in Manners’ presentation of the concept, but rather as continuing anolder tradition of promoting European or Western civilization in international society. To go further, onecould see the normative power of the present-day EU as resting at least in part on that legacy: the EU is, ineffect, drawing on the ‘cultural capital’ that was accumulated in a much earlier period in the history of international society. Secondly, however, despite these continuities, there are also significant differences inhow the nineteenth-century ‘standard of civilization’ worked, compared with the way in which the EU aimsto promote its values today. Drawing on my discussion of Weberian social theory, I will suggest that the‘old’ normative power Europe sought to protect its status through a collectivist form of social closurecontained in the distinction between ‘civilized’ and ‘barbarous’ peoples. By contrast, the prestige on whichthe current EU’s normative power is founded relies on a more individualist form of closure, rootedespecially in ‘credentialism’. In many respects, this makes the normative power of the EU less vulnerableto some of the objections that are customarily levelled against nineteenth-century European imperialism,and suggests that it is not fair to reduce both to an essentially similar logic of self/other identity relations: asManners has repeatedly tried to claim, the normative role of the EU is not a colonial one. On the otherhand, individualist forms of closure do contain some potential problems, especially in terms of the EU’sability to retain a sense of its distinctive cultural identity, and perhaps even in terms of its ability in thelong-term to protect the privileged position that its member states enjoy in international society and theworld economy. That may not be a major concern from the point of view of global justice; but it is unlikelyto be a prospect on which Europeans will look with much enthusiasm. Normative power, social status and social closure The notion of normative power immediately places our discussion within the realm of ideas or values, asopposed to material resources and their use to influence the interests of other actors. Nevertheless, that isnot to say that economic or other material factors are completely irrelevant to any comprehensive accountof how norms are established and changed. Indeed, according to Manners, one of the most important waysin which the EU is able to diffuse its values is through the ‘“carrot and stickism” of financial rewards andeconomic sanctions’ (2002, 245). The desire of other states to gain economic benefits from theirinteractions with the EU, or even through acquiring membership of the Union, acts as a powerful incentivefor them to accept the values for which it stands, if only for largely instrumental reasons (Manners 2002,244-245). No-one can dispute the importance of these aspects of the norm-shaping influence that the EUenjoys, but to focus on them seems to me to make the distinction between civilian and normative powerhard to sustain, if not even slightly illusory. If normative power is nothing more than ‘carrot and stickism’,then it might be more accurate to say that the EU is essentially a civilian power, which (like many othercivilian powers, or military powers for that matter) uses its influence in this sphere to impose its preferrednorms on other international actors (see, for example, Dietz 2005, 616-18). In this context it is worth notingthat Manner’s srcinal distinction between civilian and normative power contained a difference in howeach kind of power is defined, which leads to a certain ambiguity in how he distinguishes them, and somakes his argument vulnerable to this kind of objection. Civilian power is described as ‘the ability to use civilian instruments’, while normative power is ‘the ability to shape  conceptions of “normal”’ (Manners2002, 240, my emphasis). Although this is presented as if it demarcated a boundary between the two types 2  of power, it really does not: there is no contradiction between them, since one could (and the EU, asManners shows, does) use  civilian instruments to shape  conceptions of what is ‘normal’. Thus, on thisinterpretation, Manners’ argument really amounts to little more than the claim that the EU is a strongcivilian power, which just happens to be normatively different from most other states or internationalorganizations in the world, and so part of the effect of its use of civilian power is to reshape internationalnorms. That may be an important and correct point, but it is hard to see what work the specific idea of ‘normative  power  ’ is doing in that formulation, and therefore raises the question of why we need theconcept at all.One response would be to say that civilian power is indeed a richer and more normative conceptthan Manners suggests (for example, Nicolaides & Howse 2002). But here I want to take a different routeby retaining the idea of normative power, but making its conceptual distinctiveness clearer by treating it, inparallel with Manners’ definition of civilian power, as the ability to use ideational instruments , rather than just the ability to shape norms. This aspect of normative power is certainly not absent from Manners’discussion. For example, it is relevant to how he talks about several aspects of norm diffusion, such as theidea of a ‘cultural filter’, or the ‘symbolic transmission’ of the EU’s principles (Manners 2002, 245 & 252).And, as he remarks elsewhere, if we try to expand the civilian power idea to embrace Europe’s normativerole, we run a risk of, among other things, over-emphasising its materialist and strategically instrumentaldimensions, whereas one of the major points of preferring to use a distinct idea of normative power is toemphasise the ‘non-material exemplification found in the contagion of norms through imitation...andattraction’ (Manners 2006, 176).I will return to these specific issues about the normative power of the EU in a moment, but first Iwant to try to think more generally about what it might mean to conceptualize normative power in moreexclusively non-material terms: how can ideational instruments alone make others ‘attracted’ to Europeanvalues, and make them want to ‘imitate’ its norms? I think there are three broad ways of answering thisquestion: normative power understood strictly as the power of ideas could rest on the moral rightness of thevalues being upheld, on the political skill with which they are communicated, or on the social status thatthey command. In other words, normative power could be understood as moral, political or social: as afunction of virtue, persuasion or prestige. (Or, of course, on some combination of all of them; they are notintended to be mutually exclusive categories.) I am going to try to develop the sociological line of enquiryin most detail here, but it is relevant to cast a quick glance at some of the alternative ways in which thesequestions might be handled, not least because there are some important and interesting overlaps betweenthem, as well as significant differences. Three types of normative power: moral, political and social In the first place, values could be seen as having an intrinsic quality that depends on their correspondencewith moral reason. The power of an idea, in other words, is determined by its logical validity in a way thatcan be demonstrated through philosophical reflection, and its acceptance by other actors simply requiresthem to be willing to accept the force of the better argument. The power of John Rawls’ conception of 'justice as fairness', for example, might be said to derive from the fact that it purports to represent thelogical conclusion that would be reached by any reasonable and disinterested enquirer; to resist his idea of what constitutes a just society, one would have to offer, at the very least, an alternative argument thatshows why a reasonable and disinterested person would have grounds to prefer a different conception of  justice (Rawls 1971, and, for an example of such a response, see Nozick 1974). Something like this claimdoes appear to be made in much of the literature on 'normative' or 'soft power'. Nye, for example, says that 3  'soft power arises in large part from our values': it rests on the 'universality of our culture' and our ability to'appeal to values about the justness of contributing to those shared values and purposes' (2002, 9-10; 2008,31: values about the justness of values!). It is perhaps also evident in Manners’ assertion that the normativepower of the EU itself has a normative quality: it ‘ should   act to extend its norms into the internationalsystem’ (Manners 2002, 252, emphasis original). It comes through yet more strongly in his laterformulation of the concept, where one of the key elements of normative power is said to derive from ‘beingreasonable’, a notion that explicitly invokes the deontological method of Kantian ethical enquiry (Manners2008, 57). As far as I am aware, and with due deference to John Rawls, we do not yet have a an absolutelyperfect and logically unarguable moral philosophical demonstration of the moral validity of the principleson which the EU is based, at least in terms of how they are defined by the EU. Even the most thorough-going Kantian might admit that there is scope here for further philosophical debate, rather than merely theexercise of normative power. Graver problems, however, surround this way of thinking when it is placedinto the international context that is demanded by a consideration of the EU as a normative power. In sucha context, it may not even be possible to give a rigorous philosophical demonstration of the moral virtue of the EU’s values that would be universally compelling. In his later work on justice, Rawls himself emphasises that his argument will appeal to those who already accept the broad principles contained withinthe ‘overlapping consensus’ of political liberalism (Rawls 1993), and it is therefore conceivable that arational and disinterested moral philosopher from outside that consensus might reason towards a differentidea of justice in an entirely different manner; in his work on international justice he explicitlyacknowledges the possibility that illiberal societies may be 'well-ordered' on their own terms (Rawls 1999).If that is correct, it dramatically reduces the ability of an international actor such as the EU to rely upon themoral rectitude of its values as the basis of its normative power: being reasonable may mean very differentthings to people who inhabit different sorts of ‘overlapping consensus’. Thus, while there may, as Mannerscontends, be a ‘normative difference’ to the EU, can we be sure that that is a morally  relevant difference?Many other systems of values presume to being ‘universally applicable’: what is special about theprinciples for which the EU stands in this respect?Of course, many moral philosophers do not follow a deontological or ideal theoretical method, buttake the ‘linguistic turn’ instead into the domain of ‘ordinary language’ rather than ‘ideal theory’. On thisview, propositions about values are made within a pre-existing language; normative power, then, might beconceived in terms of one’s ability to make certain moves within the ‘language game’ as presentlyconstructed, or perhaps in terms of one’s ability to change the rules by which the whole ‘language game’works, for example by endowing a concept with a new meaning, or altering our sense of the importance of and relationship between different concepts (for example, MacIntyre 1988; Skinner 2002, especially vols. i& iii). This quickly moves beyond the confines of rational moral argument as such, and points towardswhat I would describe as a more ‘political’ perspective on the power of ideas, stemming from the insightthat merely setting out a well-argued philosophical defence of a particular value is not sufficient to ensureits acceptance by others. Persuasion is also necessary. Thinking of normative power in these terms admits arole for, among other things, rhetorical and other political strategies, a point that is central to Nye's analysisof soft power, and which also figures prominently in Manners’ analysis of EU diplomacy andcommunications. Indeed, it seems to me that the latter’s understanding of the ideational dimensions of normative power is most fully grounded on this aspect of how the EU relates to other states andinternational organisations. Another good example of this approach in international relations theory wouldbe the analysis of norm change offered by Martha Finnemore and Kathryn Sikkink, which, especially in theearly stages of the development of a new norm, highlights the importance of persuasion by ‘norm 4
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