Monday, May 9, 2011

Jeffrey T. Checkel. 2001. Why Comply? Social Learning and European Identity Change.

Jeffrey T. Checkel. 2001. “Why Comply? Social Learning and European Identity Change.” International Organization 55(3): 553–88.

Dependent variable: Compliance, the extent to which agents abide by and fulfill international rules and norms rather than socialization.

The author focuses on persuasion to operationalize the roles of communication and social interaction implicit but undertheorized in constructivist compliance studies. It also broadens the rationalist compliance approach that focuses on instrumental action and strategic exchange. In some cases, social actors comply by learning new interests through noninstrumental communication and persuasion.

For rationalists, state compliance stems from coercion (sometimes), instrumental calculation (always), and incentives--usually material, but possibly social as well. The choice mechanism is cost/benefit calculations, and the environment is one of strategic interaction in that it is premised on a unilateral calculation of verbal and nonverbal cues.

Many constructivists, especially those drawing from social movements scholarship, see the causal pathway to compliance in a similar way; that is, state compliance is a function of coercion (social sanctioning) and instrumental calculations (strategic social construction). However, a small group of constructivists, as well as cognitive regime theorists and students of the European Union, have suggested an alternative causal pathway, where state compliance results from social learning and deliberation that lead to preference change. In this view, the choice mechanism is non-instrumental, and the environment, to extend the earlier analogy, is one of social interaction between agents, were mutual learning and the discovery of new preferences replace unilateral calculation.

Case Studies
Checkel presents the cases of Germany and Ukraine as examples of norm socialization and persuasion, respectively. His cases suggest three different ways institutions influence the compliance process.
  1. Institutional legacies can frustrate the plans of national agents to comply, such as in Ukraine.
  2. The structure of domestic institutions seems key in explaining variance in the mechanisms through which compliance occurs. All else equal in German and Ukraine, the insulated nature of Ukrainian institutions increase the likelihood that compliance would be attained through persuasion and learning; likewise, pluralist German institutions made it more likely that social sanctioning would play a more important role in the compliance process.
  3. Preexisting norms were key in affecting agent willingness to comply with the injunctions of emerging European understandings. The presence of such cognitive priors hindered compliance (many elites in the German case), whereas their absence promoted it through persuasion and learning (the noviceness of so many agents in Ukraine).
It should be noted, however, that other explanations for the German and Ukrainian experience exist. Checkel does not debunk them.

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