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.