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By John M. Howie

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Katzenstein has suggested that traditional approaches to the study of Japan’s security and foreign policies, ‘as variants of Realist political thought, both seek causal primacy in the structure of the international state system and the putative effects of that structure on rational state actors seeking to maximize their relative gains in the international system’ (Katzenstein and Okawara 1993: 85). To overcome these heavily positivist approaches, one different area of scholarship can be drawn upon in the form of the role of norms and ideas in foreign policy – the normative context that shapes acceptable and appropriate behaviour which is, of course, itself shaped by historical change.

Worldviews are regarded as having the widest impact on human thought and action. Examples of worldviews are religions, capitalism or communism, and state sovereignty. Principled beliefs are defined as normative ideas that are worthy of realisation. Examples of these include human rights, abolition of slavery, and environmentalism. In these cases moral authority is important and can be regarded in the same way as military and economic capabilities as a power source (Hall 1997). It is argued that decolonisation was a principled idea that had an enormous impact on foreign policies of both the states fighting for and resisting decolonisation.

By this stage the norm has achieved an unquestioned level of acceptance and has become a settled norm at which point ‘any argument denying the norm (or which appears to override the norm) requires special justification’ (Frost 1996: 105). Discussion of concordance with the norm receives little attention and is as good as automatic. The traces of discussion and justification, which allowed us to identity an emerging norm, have all but disappeared by this stage. We have come full circle; the new norm is now the orthodoxy and it will not be long before new emerging norms challenge this orthodoxy and another life cycle begins.

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