Multinormativity in Western Arguments Regarding Punishment of the Boxers and their Patrons, 1900-1901
16 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2018 Last revised: 15 Feb 2020
Date Written: July 1, 2018
Westerners applied multiple normative frameworks in debating policy toward China in the wake of the Boxer Uprising in 1900 and 1901. They variously claimed that treatment of China should be governed by the rules of international law, a code of honor, Christian teachings, the judgment of history, or ill-defined norms of civilization. At other times, however, Westerners called for violence against the Chinese without any meaningful normative basis. The law and the legal discipline have an imperializing character, as the law conceptually tends to subordinate other normative frameworks to itself and integrate them into its own normative order, dubbed law. The debate concerning China in 1900 illustrates that legal norms were inextricably and complexly entangled with other norms. It suggests that legal historians, if they are to grasp the past in its full richness, should attend to multiple normative frameworks beyond the law, since legal history cannot be divorced from its wider context. Moreover, scholars applying the lens of multinormativity should recognize that, at some point, norms end and a-normative arguments begin.
Keywords: multinormativity, international law, honor, Boxer Uprising, a-normativity
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