Imposing international norms: Great powers and norm enforcement

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50 Scopus citations


What role does force play in changing international norms and who is it used against? This essay argues that when great powers seek to promote new norms, they will coerce the weak; persuasion is saved for the strong. The interaction of two factors - the standing of the target state in the international society of states and its power relative to the norm-promoting great power - helps explain the use, or nonuse, of force by great powers seeking to promote norms. The cases of the slave trade, piracy, and state sponsorship of terrorism are examined to evaluate how the attributes of norm-violating states affect the likelihood that great powers will intervene to encourage states to adopt new norms. Power appears to be the best defense against being targeted by a great power seeking to promote norm change, but good standing in the international society of states is an important deterrent against intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-80
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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