Evers, Miles M. "Just the Facts: Why Norms Remain Relevant in an Age of Practice," International Theory 12(2): 220-230

Reification— the act of treating something socially created as if it were real—is often described as a problem in the study of international norms. Critical and post-colonial scholars argue that reification silences alternative worldviews, whereas practice-oriented scholars argue it diminishes agency and practical innovation.  In his article “From Norms to Normative Configurations,” Simon Pratt proposes a solution to the problem of reification, reconceiving norms as a configuration of interrelated social practices. In this piece, I argue that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Reification is an essential part of how norms are constructed, contested, and surmounted in international  politics. I revisit the foundational figures in norms research to highlight problems in Pratt’s analysis, and prove the value of reification, both analytically and methodologically. Then, I use these insights to amend the concept of normative configuration, redefining it as a complex network of discrete norms tied together through common social practices. Along the way, I offer directions for future research on the relationship between norms and practices.
Does President Trump face domestic costs for foreign policy inconsistency? Will co- partisans and opposition-partisans equally punish Donald Trump for issuing flippant international threats and backing down? While the President said he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” without losing voters, the literature consistently shows that individuals, regardless of partisanship, disapprove of leaders who jeopardize the country’s reputation for credibility and resolve. Given the atypical nature of the Trump presidency, and the severe partisan polarization surrounding it, we investigate whether the logic of audience costs still applies in the Trump era. Using a unique experiment fielded during the 2016 presidential transition, we show that Republicans and Democrats impose equal audience costs on President Trump. And by varying the leader’s identity, between Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and “The President,” we demonstrate that the public adheres to a non-partisan logic in punishing leaders who renege on threats. Yet, we also find Presidents Trump and Obama can reduce the magnitude of audience costs by justifying backing down as being “in America’s interest.” Even Democrats,despite their doubts of Donald Trump’s credibility, accept such justifications. Our findings indicate a need for further exploration of partisan cues and leader-level attributes and reputations.
Why do states intentionally and publicly violate international norms, even when they anticipate (social or material) costs for doing so? Unfortunately, constructivist scholarship on norm-dynamics lacks a well-developed account of deliberate and open norm transgressions. This gap in the literature has led to a limited understanding of resistance to international norms. Constructivist scholarship on norm-dynamics often treats compliance as an inherent “good” that all states move toward. However, I argue that public acts of norm noncompliance can serve important social functions and are strategically performed by states in pursuit of specific (social or material) ends. I demonstrate that states will overtly and self-consciously violate international norms to either assert their identity as insiders or outsiders in international society or to contest those categories altogether. Drawing on work in sociology and the social psychology of deviance, I develop the concept of norm transgressions to capture intentional and purposeful violations of international norms. I present a typology of norm transgressions (rejective, adaptive, inclusionary, and exclusionary) to provide the groundwork for future scholarship on overt resistance to international norms. The concept of norm transgression bears important implications for our understanding of deviancy, institutional compliance, and normative change in international politics.
Why did the United States form an empire in the Pacific in the nineteenth century? Conventional explanations highlight how U.S. commercial or strategic interests drove U.S. expansion. These explanations, however, are insufficient because they do not explain the pace or place of expansion. Why did the United States acquire Samoa and not neighboring islands? Why did the United States take Guam but leave other, valuable islands in the Northern Marianas untouched? Why did the United States show an interest in the Philippines only in 1899 when it had already begun expansion in the Pacific years earlier? This paper contrasts metrocentric explanations, which emphasize elites interests, with an intercentric account. Building on social network theory, this paper argues that the period preceding imperialism is characterized by structural holes, where there is little interaction between an empire and its future colony. The presence of the structural holes create incentives for agents to “run ahead of empire,” profiting by forming the first ties between societies. In doing so, these agents form a monopoly on information as it passes between core and periphery. We identify three pathways by which these agents can use their betweenness to shape imperialism. We then illustrate how these agents were crucial for the U.S. empire in the Pacific by examining the Guano Islands, Samoa, and Hawaii. In each case, it shows how people used their position between societies in manipulate elites in the core and periphery. The conclusion considers implications for other empires, as well as for larger debates about political power. 
In 1943, President Roosevelt extended lend-lease assistance to Saudi Arabia, beginning one of the most controversial and enduring security partnerships in the world. Traditionally, scholars of international security have emphasized structural variables, or electoral-politics, particularly economic coalitions and public opinion, as key factors influencing overseas expansion. These explanations, however, are insufficient because they cannot explain the timing of U.S. interest in Saudi Arabia; the strategic and commercial importance of Saudi Arabia was not fully realized until the spring of 1943, after the lend-lease decision. How did the security of Saudi Arabia become a vital interest of the  United States? Building on social network theory and the work of New Left historians, I argue that the social ties between the California-Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC) and the Roosevelt Administration shaped America’s interest in Saudi Arabia. When institutional reforms in 1942 placed two CASOC managers in the administration, the company used their closeness to the decision-making process to secure a long-term U.S. presence that would protect their investment in the kingdom. They built support for lend-lease by shapingdecisionmakers perceptions of Saudi Arabia and exploiting trust in the company’s motives and expertise. To prove this, I leverage within-case variation and original, archival research of the lend-lease decision between 1941 and 1943. The conclusion considers implications for larger debates about “revolving doors” and U.S. foreign policy in the twenty-first century.