The Art of Aiming at a Moving Target: A Critique of Lechner and Frost’s Practice Theory and International Relations

19 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2019 Last revised: 1 Nov 2019

See all articles by Nora Stappert

Nora Stappert

University of Copenhagen - MOBILE - Center of Excellence for Global Mobility Law

Date Written: October 7, 2019

Abstract

How can we account for the normative dimension of international practices? Silviya Lechner and Mervyn Frost’s Practice Theory and International Relations answers this question by proposing, with a considerable degree of epistemological sophistication, what the authors call ‘normative descriptivism’, which they combine with a focus on ‘macro practices’. In this contribution, I start by examining the authors engagement with IR’s practice turn, and the insights this engagement may offer on the underlying objective of their approach. I then turn to Lechner and Frost’s decision to eclipse history. The contribution concludes by using the evolution of international law as a cursory illustration of the types of analyses Lechner and Frost’s approach would lead to. It thereby emphasises potential challenges inherent in the authors’ combination of internalism as rooted in individual self-consciousness and a focus on ‘macro practices’, including the possibility that it might limit the potential to critically question the standard that becomes identified as universal.

Keywords: practice theory, evolution of international law, internalism, normative dimension of international practices

Suggested Citation

Stappert, Nora, The Art of Aiming at a Moving Target: A Critique of Lechner and Frost’s Practice Theory and International Relations (October 7, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3465464 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3465464

Nora Stappert (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen - MOBILE - Center of Excellence for Global Mobility Law ( email )

Karen Blixens Plads 16
Copenhagen, 2300
Denmark

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