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Empowering resistance? ‘Revisionist’ states and the underlying dynamics of international norm diffusion

Saint, Emma (2020) Empowering resistance? ‘Revisionist’ states and the underlying dynamics of international norm diffusion. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004231


This thesis analyses the empirical puzzle of purported revisionist state endorsement of international norms. It demonstrates that despite expectations of norm rejection, ‘revisionist’ states in fact endorse the norms that comprise the very international order they ostensibly oppose. Employing Cuba as a case study of a paradigmatic revisionist state, it assesses the reasons behind Cuban endorsement of three international norms - the elimination of chemical weapons, prohibition of torture and conservation of biological diversity - within an analytical framework comprising fifteen attributes frequently credited with international norm diffusion in extant scholarship. In doing so, this thesis proffers a revised framework for international norm diffusion in a least likely scenario, identifying the key attributes that most consistently impacted norm endorsement by a ‘revisionist’ state. It also dispels the myth of socialisation as either an explanatory factor behind, or result of, international norm endorsement. Rather, the findings demonstrate that international norms were harnessed and ultimately endorsed by a purported revisionist state in an attempt to constrain, shame or otherwise hold the prevailing hegemon to account, rendering international norm endorsement a form of empowerment of resistance. This study additionally raises questions regarding the very meaning of revisionism in world politics. It reveals conceptions of revisionism and deviance as subjective - indeed performative - constructs, rendered operational as devices of hegemonic consolidation only in the hands of the most powerful, thereby simultaneously refracting and propagating the stratified power relations underlying international politics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Emma Saint
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Smith, Karen E. and Hoffman, Mark

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