The Term “Norms” in Constructivist and English Schools

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 2
Words: 444
Reading time:
2 min

Constructivist theories are grounded in social norms that describe a general and standard behavior expected from different actors. The states are integral entities that interact with others in developing their identities within specific realms. This means that the countries belonging to a particular identity must comply with the established expectations. The constructivist theory perceives norms as the guiding principles that allow states to act appropriately.

The state actors or the influential people within a particular community determine the interaction between different nations and other governments in international relations. The states that group themselves in a specific cluster must act according to the norms of appropriate behavior expected of them. However, these norms undergo a life cycle before they are accepted as relevant practices. For instance, different states combine efforts to mitigate climate change effects because it is the appropriate action. Therefore, it means that countries have a definite way of acting to support the ‘right thing’ based on the ideologies held within a specific state cluster.

Constructivists are more concerned with world affairs, in terms of which states are perceived as conscious entities that form a shared understanding that influences self-interests and subsequent actions. Such a common approach defines the specific expected actions of each state that are believed to be appropriate. These norms change over time as intersubjectivity between two countries determines the kind of interactions. In that case, the norms are continually evolving in response to an actor’s beliefs and ideas.

Contrary to the constructivist view, the English school perceives norms as the rules established by international society. Each state belonging to a distinct international society must uphold and respect the principles established to guide different states’ interaction. The international system determines the actions of states that have mutual significance to each other to advance the whole concept of interstate relations. English school theorists hold that the international system reflects the power politics between nations with a standardized structure of rules. An international society can only exist when several states are bound by specific laws determining each state’s actions. Countries have to comply with international society’s norms through various institutions inferring practices such as diplomacy, which facilitates the interaction among states.

Although constructivists follow a set of accepted behavior, the English school treats norms as mandatory principles that a state must follow to exist in a particular society. For instance, the European Union holds that member countries must observe justice for all and provide fundamental human rights. Therefore, a nation that fails to comply with these regulations cannot be part of the European Union.