Informal norms

Shaping behavior in international negotiations

Authored by: Heidi Hardt

Routledge Handbook of International Organization

Print publication date:  May  2013
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415501439
eBook ISBN: 9780203405345
Adobe ISBN: 9781134112982


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A budding scholarship in the field of international negotiations has turned its attention to the informal level of decision making and the associated norms, communications, and interactions of diplomats and officials. In particular, the adoption of informal norms influences the course of negotiations. However, in the context of international organizations (IOs), the majority of previous literature on negotiations has privileged formality by primarily modeling formal decision making, observing and measuring votes and vetoes, and studying outcomes (Tollison and Willett 1979). As the study of norms is not new, Finnemore (1996: 325) observes that international law, history, anthropology, and sociology provide examples of fields that “have always known that social realities influence behavior.” Yet political science scholarship has chosen to favor the study of formalized social norms. Only one of Odell’s (2010) three “islands” or areas of knowledge in the international negotiations literature has incorporated informality. That is, unlike negotiation analysis and political economy, constructivism has embraced the notion of informality because informal norms comprise part of its broader focus on the normative framework surrounding negotiations.

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