From norms to normative configurations: a pragmatist and relational approach to theorizing normativity in IR

Simon Frankel Pratt
2019 International Theory  
Normativity matters in international politics, but IR scholarship will benefit from de-reifying 'norms' as units into a relational, configurational alternative. The alternative I propose here is the 'normative configuration': an arrangement of ongoing, interacting practices establishing action-specific regulation, value-orientation, and avenues of contestation. This responds to recent constructivist scholarship, particularly from relational sociology and practice theory, that implies the need
more » ... r ontological and analytical alternatives to 'norms' as central concepts responsible for establishing rules, institutions, and values in social life. I offer a way of conceptualizing and analyzing normativity consistent with these alternative approaches. Namely, I have brought together a pragmatist theory of action with the social theories of a number of key relational social theorists and philosophers, oriented around a reading of what norms-talk actually does for social enquiry. I then outline a three stage process – de-reification, attributing agency, and tracing transactions – that allows scholars to study transformations in normative configurations. Finally, I discuss what this contributes to the recent turns toward practices and relations, as the latest direction in constructivist scholarship within the discipline.
doi:10.1017/s1752971919000095 fatcat:t3rys5li5jcvricfi2whsad4a4