When norms collide: The COVID-19 pandemic and difficult choices on the hierarchy of norms and values

Norm collisions due to COVID-19 inevitably lead to societal conflicts [Image: Uriel Soberanes/Unsplash]

Note: A shorter version of this post was published earlier on Duck of Minerva.

Politics, as famously defined by David Easton, is the ‚Äúauthoritative allocation of values‚ÄĚ, such as welfare, security, and liberty. Politicians thus have to make decisions on hierarchies between these values ‚Äď and they have to weigh values against each other in cases in which they collide. It is still too early for an in-depth analysis of the numerous norm collisions in the responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, we can already see how the previously found balance between the three aforementioned values, and the norms revolving around them, is destabilised.

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‚ÄėYou did not act in time‚Äô: Greta Thunberg and behavioural contestation

Students at a ‘Fridays For Future’ protest march in Invalidenpark, Berlin [Mika Baumeister/unsplash]

‚ÄėBasically nothing is being done to halt‚ÄĒor even slow‚ÄĒclimate and ecological breakdown, despite all the beautiful words and promises‚Äô. Greta Thunberg‚Äôs damning speech before the UK parliament last month highlights that the greatest challenge to international climate agreements is inaction by governments. The Swedish climate activist‚Äôs central message was: ‚ÄėYou did not act in time‚Äô.

The norms within the Paris Agreement on climate change are challenged not just by climate change deniers and other open critics. Perhaps more dangerously, as Thunberg pointed out, they are also contested by states like the UK that pay lip-service to the agreement but fail to reach their emissions reduction targets. To capture these diverse forms of norm contestation, the special section on the ‚ÄėDynamics of Dissent‚Äô in the May issue of International Affairs makes a distinction between discursive and behavioural contestation.

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Kein ‘business as usual’: Die Rolle von Akademiker*innen im Zeitalter von Trump √ľberdenken


                                                                                                                                                                  [Photo: Cole Keister/unsplash]

‚ÄěMein Haus brennt, und ich stelle die M√∂bel um!‚Äú ‚Äď dieses russische Sprichwort stehe exemplarisch f√ľr die gegenw√§rtige Krise der Sozialwissenschaften, argumentiert Robert Benson in seinem neuen Beitrag. In Zeiten von Neoautoritarismus in Gestalt von Trump und Bolsonaro, Repressionen gegen universit√§re Einrichtungen im Herzen Europas und rechtsextremen Mobs auf den Stra√üen von Chemnitz seien Akademiker*innen mehr denn je in der Pflicht, sich zu Wort zu melden. Stattdessen dominierten nach wie vor elit√§re Debatten innerhalb akademischer Zirkel, weit entfernt von allgemeiner √∂ffentlicher Wahrnehmung. Doch wenn Wissenschaft weiterhin nach dem von Max Weber konstatierten Muster betrieben werde ‚Äď berechnend, exakt und gef√ľhllos, so spiegeln auch die resultierenden Debatten diese Haltung wider. Als Sozialwissenschftler*in hingegen habe man, frei nach Howard Becker, den Luxus moralischer Indifferenz aufgegeben. Daher pl√§diert Benson f√ľr ein Ende des Maulkorbs ‚Äď es sei an der Zeit, den Elfenbeinturm zu verlassen und kollektiv die Stimme zu erheben.

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This cannot be business as usual: re-examining the role of the scholar in the age of Trump


                                                                                                                                                                 [Photo: Cole Keister/unsplash]

The Austrian jurist Hans Kelsen wrote in the summer of 1932 ‚Äėone hears talk on all sides of a crisis‚ÄĒand sometimes even a catastrophe‚ÄĒ of democracy‚Äô. Embroiled in a bitter exchange with his fellow legal scholars, the erstwhile philosophy teacher from Vienna was increasingly isolated and at odds with his profession. ‚ÄėThose who are for democracy‚Äô he argued ‚Äėcannot allow themselves to be caught in the dangers of idle debates‚Äô. Spirited in his defense of the Weimar Constitution, Kelsen was not in keeping with the times. There was, he believed, a sense of urgency to his scholarly work that his contemporaries simply did not understand. We live in a world, he lamented¬≠, absent of heroes. Within months of accepting his professorship at the University of Cologne, Kelsen was summarily dismissed on political grounds.

‚ÄėHistory may not repeat itself‚Äô, the Yale historian Timothy Snyder argues, ‚Äėbut it certainly instructs‚Äô. Once again there is talk of a crisis of democracy. Yet like the fatigue which comes at the onset of a fever, there exists a disorientating malaise amongst social scientists. We work and publish; we debate with our colleagues, but to what ends?

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Forschung zu humanit√§ren Angelegenheiten: Normative Fragen, Forschungsl√ľcken und methodologische Herausforderungen

[Photo: Dmitri Popov/unsplash]

In seinem neuen Blogbeitrag analysiert Sassan Gholiagha den Stellenwert von humanitären Angelegenheiten (humanitarian affairs) in den internationalen Beziehungen. Im Detail geht er drei Fragen nach: Welchen Stellenwert haben normative Erwägungen in der Forschung zu humanitären Angelegenheiten, und wie können Wissenschaftler*innen ihre eigene Position innerhalb dieser kritisch reflektieren; trotz Platz Рund Zeitbeschränkungen?

Welche Forschungsl√ľcken existieren gegenw√§rtig? Hier spricht sich Gholiagha f√ľr eine (R√ľck-) Besinnung auf feministische und konstruktivistische Ans√§tze aus, die Individuen und ihre soziale Konstruktion durch bestimmte Diskurse in den Blick nehmen.

Und letztlich: welche methodischen Herangehensweisen sind geeignet, um der Vielfalt menschlicher Erfahrungen in den IB gerecht zu werden? W√§hrend nach Ansicht des Autors quantitative und qualitative Methoden gleicherma√üen ihre Berechtigung haben, liefert er dennoch Gr√ľnde daf√ľr, warum zu Datenpunkten zusammengefasste Einzelakteure ihrer Stimme kaum Geh√∂r verschaffen k√∂nnen.

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Researching Humanitarian Affairs: Normative Issues, Research Gaps, and Methodological Challenges

[Photo: Dmitri Popov/unsplash]

The study of humanitarian affairs ‚Äď defined as international politics and policies that deal with the limitation of human suffering in situations of crisis and war ‚Äď should be the core issue for many scholars of International Relations. In this blog post, I deal with three central themes relevant for studying humanitarian affairs: 1) issues and challenges, 2) research gaps, and 3) methodological challenges. In doing so, I am hoping to facilitate a larger debate about how we, as scholars of IR, can and should study humanitarian affairs. I will then conclude with some normative considerations on the relationship between International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in the context of humanitarian affairs.

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Norms of gender equality and the backlash against Istanbul Convention

Image from Wikimedia Commons, Zagreb March 2018
Banner says “Stop Istanbul (Convention) for Sovereign Croatia”

During the first couple of months of 2018, several countries in Europe witnessed a backlash against the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, widely known as the Istanbul Convention. In February 2018, Bulgarian government decided against the ratification of the Convention pointing out to the lack of popular support. At the same time, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church declared that the Convention opens the door to ‚Äúmoral decay‚ÄĚ with its ‚Äúgender ideology,‚ÄĚ which is considered ‚Äúalien‚ÄĚ to Bulgarian society. The governing coalition (GERB) decided to withdraw the Convention from the parliament when faced by the opposition from both its coalition partner and the socialists.

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