15 May 2008

The United States:A normative power?

Daniel S. Hamilton

Download Publication


The US has been and continues to be simultaneously a guardian of international norms; a norm entrepreneur challenging prevailing norms as insufficient; a norm externaliser when it tries to advance norms for others that it is reluctant to apply to itself; and a norm blocker when it comes to issues that may threaten its position, or that exacerbate divisions among conflicting currents of American domestic thought. On balance (and despite exceptions), the US has sought to manage this normative-hegemonic interplay by accepting some limits on its power in exchange for greater legitimacy and acceptance of its leadership by others. The unresolved question today is whether the US and other key players are prepared to stick with this bargain. Closer examination of the US case also raises a considerable number of questions about the notion of the EU as a ‘normative power’.