The Hidden Contestation of Norms: Decent Work in the ILO and the UN

27 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2022 Last revised: 15 Mar 2022

See all articles by Julia Drubel

Julia Drubel

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law

Janne Mende

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law

Date Written: March 7, 2022

Abstract

The question of whether global norms are experiencing a crisis allows for two concurrent answers. From a facticity perspective, certain global norms are under crisis, given their world-wide lack of implementation and effectiveness. From a validity perspective, however, a crisis is not obvious, as these norms are not openly contested discursively and institutionally. In order to explain the double diagnosis (crisis/no crisis), this paper draws on International Relations research on norm contestation and norm robustness. It proposes the concept of hidden discursive contestation and distinguishes it from three other key types of norm contestation: open discursive, open non-discursive, and hidden non-discursive contestation. We identify four manifestations of hidden discursive contestation in 1) the deflection of responsibility, 2) forestalling norm strengthening, 3) displaying norms as functional means to an end, and 4) down- or upgrading single norm elements. Our empirical focus is on the decent work norm, which demonstrates the double diagnosis. Whereas it lacks facticity, it enjoys far-reaching verbal acceptance and high validity. Our qualitative analysis of discursive hidden contestation draws on two case studies: the International Labour Organization’s compliance procedures, which monitor international labor standards, and the United Nations Treaty Process on a binding instrument for business and human rights. Although both fora have different context and policy cycles, they pursue similar strategies of hidden discursive contestation.

Keywords: norms, robustness, contestation, decent work, United Nations, International Labour Organization

Suggested Citation

Drubel, Julia and Mende, Janne, The Hidden Contestation of Norms: Decent Work in the ILO and the UN (March 7, 2022). Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & International Law (MPIL) Research Paper No. 2022-05, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4051492 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4051492

Julia Drubel (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120
Germany

Janne Mende

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.mpil.de/de/pub/institut/personen/wissenschaftlicher-bereich/jmende.cfm

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
95
Abstract Views
453
rank
370,224
PlumX Metrics