States and Rules, Norms and Interests

Ian Hurd
Content Type
Working Paper
Centre for International Peace and Security Studies
The conventional separation in IR theory between instrumental behavior and legitimated norms as explanations for state action has discouraged the study of phenomena that include both. As a result important practices including hypocrisy, norm violation, and the strategic reinterpretation of rules and laws are under-examined. The source of the problem is the idea of 'internalization' of external rules and norms, which has come to define the distinction between rationalism and constructivism in IR, and between the logics of appropriateness and of consequences. I argue that internalization is problematic for empirical research in IR because it eliminates the possibility of strategic thinking by states in relation to international norms and rules. It leaves no room for instrumentalism around norms and so cannot account for norm violation, the strategic manipulation of norms, and the productive process of norm innovation. This is a problem equally for rationalism and constructivism. I argue for an alternative model that focuses on the practice of invoking international norms and rules and show that this approach allows new insight into the agent-structure problem, the relation between states and rules in world politics, and the relation between rationalism and constructivism.
International Relations, International Political Economy, Sovereignty, Political Theory