ARENA Working Papers
WP 99/11



Sanctions, Social Learning and Institutions: Explaining State Compliance with the Norms of the European Human Rights Regime*

Jeffrey T. Checkel**



The regime literature on compliance and constructivist work on socialization, while differing widely in ontological assumptions and methodologies, share a common interest in explaining why agents come to abide by the norms embedded in regimes and international institutions. While the regime work has largely neglected the social context of compliance, constructivist research has been remiss in noting the role played by strategic agency in its own analyses. This state of affairs suggests that both literatures might benefit from greater dialogue; my paper is a step in this direction. Specifically, I suggest how a constructivist focus on processes of persuasion and social learning -- that is, instances where interaction cannot be reduced to strategic exchange among self-interested actors -- can broaden our understanding of the mechanisms through which compliance occurs. The arguments are illustrated by exploring why states comply with norms promoted by the European human rights regime.


This paper is a first cut at building linkages between two literatures -- regime studies of compliance and constructivist studies of socialization -- that ask essentially the same question: Why do agents comply with norms? In doing this, I take the social in the title of our workshop seriously, asking if constructivism, with its emphasis on the social context of state/agent behavior, offers some value added when we explore issues of norm compliance.

The analysis proceeds in seven steps. I begin by briefly reviewing both the regime and constructivist literatures, with a particular focus on the causal mechanisms each posits for explaining norm compliance. In the second and third sections, I advance hypotheses on the roles of persuasion and social learning in the compliance process, and address the methodological challenges involved in measuring them. I argue that such dynamics are best modelled with insights gleaned from the constructivist tool kit. The next sections provide illustrative evidence of the importance of both rationalist and constructivist compliance mechanisms in three quite different institutional settings: Strasbourg (supra-national norm creation/compliance), Germany (national norm compliance in an ?old? pluralist democracy) and Ukraine (national norm compliance in a ?new? transition state). Here, I draw upon my own work-in-progress, a study of norm-driven socialization and compliance in contemporary East and West Europe. The conclusion highlights the importance of integrating institutional factors into compliance studies, and argues for greater attention to the development of scope conditions.

Before proceeding, three caveats are in order. First, my analytic starting point is that research on norm compliance should be problem, and not method, driven; the goal is to encourage dialogue and bridge-building between rationalists and social constructivists. By itself, each school explains important elements of the compliance puzzle; working together, or at least side-by-side, they will more fully capture the range of factors that explain ?why social actors comply.?

Second and following on the above, the constructivism favored in this essay belongs to what has been called its modernist branch. These scholars, who combine an ontological stance critical of methodological individualism with a loosely causal epistemology, and who focus analytically on the role of norms in social life, are thus well placed to expand our understanding of compliance dynamics. After an initial round of empirical research demonstrating that norms mattered in a constitutive, interest-shaping way not captured by rationalist arguments, these scholars are currently elaborating micro-level, process-oriented theories to explore more systematically the interaction context through which norms reshape agent interests. Given my empirically informed hunch that compliance sometime involves such interest redefinition, this more recent work should prove useful. [1]

Third, the essay?s main focus is theoretical and methodological, and not empirical. The concern is how one could develop and apply, in a systematic manner, constructivist insights to studies of compliance. Empirically, I seek only to establish the plausibility of such propositions, and do so in two ways: (1) by drawing upon arguments and evidence from existing studies; and (2) by reference to my own work in progress.

Why Do Social Actors Comply?

My purpose in the following two sub-sections is not to provide a detailed review and classification of the regime compliance or constructivist literatures; several excellent surveys are available for that purpose. Instead, the focus is the underlying ontological assumptions and theories of actions upon which these scholars build explanations of compliance. [2]

Regime Theory and Compliance. Much like the broader subfield (international relations theory) and discipline (political science) to which they belong, regime scholars privilege methodological individualism and consequentialist theories of action in their studies. While analysts may employ differing labels -- neo-utilitarian, contractualist, interest-based, etc -- to describe the process through which actors comply with regime injunctions, a common set of assumptions unites them. For one, compliance is a game of altering strategies and behavior (which, admittedly, is sometimes all important); in a fundamental sense, then, agents leave a regime (or its institutional home) as they entered it. Put differently, the underlying ontology is decidedly individualist.

Moreover, integrated with this ontology is a view of compliance as an exercise in cost/benefit calculation -- be it in response to putative regime benefits or the threat of sanctions. Not surprisingly, these biases lead many scholars to bracket or downplay the role of language and communication (at least in meaningful ways that go beyond notions of ?cheap talk?) and to erect a black box around the interaction context from which decisions to comply emerge. [3]

For sure, there has always been a lively dissenting view to this dominant perspective. Starting with Ernie Haas?s early work on international organization, this smaller group of regime compliance scholars -- often called ?cognitivists?-- has been centrally concerned with what constructivists would term the mutually constitutive and non-strategic bases of social interaction. Allusions to learning, internalization and persuasion -- buzzwords to which any constructivist could subscribe -- as the dynamics producing compliance are strong in this research. Indeed, Haas and his students (Ruggie, Adler) have consistently argued that agents do not only and always power; they also puzzle and learn. In support of such assertions, they point to organizational/decisionmaking research and more recent work on epistemic communities, which both suggest agents puzzle because they are engaged in cognitive information searches -- typically induced by policy failure or an uncertain environment. As a result, the strategies and, perhaps, underlying preferences of these agents are in flux; they are thus open to learning. [4]

This is a powerful argument, and it seems to capture an important part of the empirical reality of compliance dynamics. However, it has most often been advanced as a heuristic claim, with key terms consequently underspecified. This means that tough issues of empirical operationalization (how would I know learning when I saw it) and the development of scope/boundary conditions (when, under what conditions will persuasion be central for explaining compliance, etc) have for the most part been avoided. [5]

In sum, regime compliance scholars possess a vigorous research program that has yielded cumulable insights on compliance dynamics. Unfortunately, its explanatory reach is limited by a restrictive set of ontological assumptions. A second set of regime analysts relaxes these assumptions, but, to date, has failed to generate robust empirical findings of its own. Overall, then, among students of regime compliance, there is a dominant answer to the question of why social actors comply: strategic calculation.

Constructivism and Compliance. For many constructivists, ?socialization? is the buzzword of the year. As typically used by students of political socialization (and constructivists), it implies a process of learning in which norms are diffused from one party to another; eventually, so the argument goes, this leads to the internalization of norms. Once this point is reached, however, compliance is not an issue of choice in any meaningful sense; agents comply out of habit, driven by certain logics of appropriateness. Early empirical research by constructivists tended to focus on this endpoint, bracketing the process through which it was reached. The result was correlational and structural arguments built on ?as if? assumptions at the level of agents. [6]

More recent constructivist work rectifies these problems by placing greater emphasis on both process and agency. These scholars have identified two broad categories of causal mechanisms through which social actors come to comply with normative prescriptions: social protest/mobilization and social learning. I address each in turn. [7]

The protest/mobilization mechanism comes in two variants. A first argues that domestic actors such as NGOs, trade unions or the like exploit international norms to generate pressures for compliance on state decisionmakers, and do so in relative isolation from broader transnational ties. Here, empirical examples are typically drawn from the industrialized West, with the argument apparently being that these well established and, in some cases, militarily powerful states are less susceptible to transnational pressures. [8]

Recently, a more sophisticated variant of the protest dynamic has been elaborated. In this case, non-state actors and policy networks, at both the national and transnational level, are united in their support for norms; they then mobilize and coerce decisionmakers to comply with them. Norms are typically not internalized by the elites. The activities of Greenpeace exemplify this political pressure mechanism. [9]

At the agent/micro-level, how does this protest dynamic explain compliance? For elites, the answer is clear: Norms are simply a behavioral constraint and not internalized. Their compliance is easily explained by standard rationalist models, which view social structures in this behavioral, constraining sense. At the grass-roots, activist, NGO-level, systematic effects of and explanations for compliance are much less clear. In some cases, norms seem genuinely to constitute these agents in the sense meant by constructivists, with the former providing actors with new understandings of interest/identity. However, in many other instances, norms produce compliance in ways better captured by rationalist arguments -- for example, by creating focal points in the domestic arena, or simply being used instrumentally by agents (NGOs, say) to advance given interests. [10]

The implicit methodological individualism and consequentialist theory of action that underlay many of these constructivist mobilization/protest accounts suggest linkages to the rationalist regime compliance literature. While not using the same terminology, constructivists have thus documented how compliance -- especially at the elite level -- is a game of cost/benefit analysis, with the diffusion of new social norms changing such calculations. Put differently, these scholars, like regime theorists, emphasize the role of sanctioning in promoting compliance. For sure, the sanctioning force (a social norm) and the mechanism (NGO shaming, say) are different, but the behavioral logics appear quite similar; one might thus call it ?social sanctioning.?

Related to these last points, constructivist work on the social mobilization dynamic contains a three-fold bias against the state and state decisionmakers. Normatively, elite policymakers are portrayed as bad; empirically, they are viewed as passive and reactive; ontologically, they are viewed solely as calculating agents. Consider the forthcoming Risse, Ropp and Sikkink volume that explores the connection between international human rights norms and patterns of domestic compliance. Their starting point is the ?boomerang? model elaborated by Keck and Sikkink, whereby recalcitrant state elites are caught in a vise of transnational and domestic social mobilization. Here, the preferences of elites do not change at early stages; rather, compliance occurs through changes in behaviors and strategies only. Temporally expanding the model, Risse, et al, argue that at later points in the process (perhaps five years to a decade), elites become less reactive and, indeed, may comply because they have internalized new preferences. While, analytically, this is an important step forward, it is unclear why state decisionmakers get to play this (more intelligent) role only after an initial ?softening up? by networks and activists. [11]

These two variants of the mobilization/protest mechanism have received more attention in studies of norm-driven compliance by constructivists. In part, this is understandable. The shaming activities of Amnesty International, say, are very much in the public and scholarly eye, and undoubtedly play a major role in spurring compliance. Yet, the danger in overemphasizing this particular mechanism is not only empirical (neglecting other possible compliance dynamics at the national level), but ontological. It misses -- just as does much of the regime compliance literature -- the obvious fact that political/state agents do not simply or always calculate how to advance given interests; in many cases, they seek to discover those interests in the first place, and do so prior to significant social mobilization.

In fact, the broader constructivist literature points to just such a dynamic, in what I call a social learning mechanism. Here, it is not political pressure but learning that leads to agent compliance with normative prescriptions. This process appears to be based on notions of complex learning drawn from cognitive and social psychology, where individuals, when exposed to the prescriptions embodied in norms, adopt new interests. I say ?appears? because scholars have remained vague on the precise cognitive model underlying this type of compliance. At this point, constructivist studies of compliance thus intersect with the cognitive regime studies mentioned earlier. [12]

The Constructivist Value Added: Persuasion, Learning and Compliance

Building on this intersection of the regime and constructivist literatures, below I seek to specify better the arguments on learning that are common to them. My starting point is that while both sets of scholars have made powerful cases for the importance of learning, there has been insufficient attention to operationalizing the concept in a manner amenable to systematic empirical testing.

To begin, what does it mean for an agent to learn? Social learning involves a process whereby actors, through interaction with broader institutional contexts (norms or discursive structures), acquire new interests and preferences -- in the absence of obvious material incentives. Put differently, agent interests and identities are shaped through interaction. Social learning thus involves a break with strict forms of methodological individualism. This type of learning needs to be distinguished, analytically, from the simple sort, where agents acquire new information, alter strategies, but then pursue given, fixed interests; simple learning, of course, can be captured by methodological-individualist/rationalist accounts. [13]

Consider small group settings: It is intuitively obvious that there are times when agents acquire new preferences through interaction in such contexts. This is not to deny periods of strategic exchange, where self-interested actors seek to maximize utility; yet, to emphasize the latter dynamic to the near exclusion of the former is an odd distortion of social reality. Now, the perhaps appropriate response is ?so what?? In an abstract sense, it readily can be appreciated that social learning takes place at certain times, but how can one conceptualize and empirically explore whether and when it occurs? Luckily, there is a growing literature in contemporary IR -- by constructivists, students of epistemic communities and empirically oriented learning theorists -- that performs precisely this theoretical/empirical combination. More specifically, this research suggests four hypotheses on when social learning occurs.

H#1 Social learning is more likely in groups where individuals share common professional backgrounds -- for example, where all/most group members are lawyers, say.

H#2 Social learning is more likely where the group feels itself in a crisis or is faced with clear and incontrovertible evidence of policy failure.

H#3 Social learning is more likely where a group meets repeatedly and there is high density of interaction among participants.

H#4 Social learning is more likely when a group is insulated from direct political pressure and exposure. [14]

Clearly, these hypotheses require further elaboration. For example, can a crisis situation be specified a priori, and not in a post-hoc fashion as is typically done? When is the density of interaction among group participants sufficiently high for a switch to occur from strategic exchange to interactive learning? These are difficult issues, but they are only being raised because a first round of theoretical/empirical literature exists. From this social learning perspective, compliance thus occurs when agents redefine interests through interaction with norms. (Of course, this begs the question how one ?interacts? with a norm -- see below.)

The deductions also point to a powerful role for communication. However, in keeping with this essay?s attempted bridging function, it is a role between that of the rationalists? cheap talk, where agents (typically) possess complete information and are (always) instrumentally motivated, and the post-modernists? discourse analyses, where agents seem oddly absent. Yet, this role itself requires further specification: Underlying my communication/learning arguments are implicit theories of persuasion and argumentation. [15]

On the latter, students of compliance can exploit a rich literature in social psychology, political socialization and communications research on persuasion/argumentation. At core, persuasion is a cognitive process that involves changing attitudes about cause and effect in the absence of overt coercion; put differently, it is a mechanism through which social learning may occur, thus leading to interest redefinition and compliance. The literature suggests three hypotheses about the settings where agents should be especially conducive to persuasion:

H#5 when they are in a novel and uncertain environment and thus cognitively motivated to analyze new information;

H#6 when the persuader is an authoritative member of the in-group to which the persuadee belongs or wants to belong; and

H#7 when the agent has few prior, ingrained beliefs that are inconsistent with the persuader?s message. [16]

This focus on persuasion has several benefits. First, it highlights and begins to operationalize the patently obvious -- but neglected in mainstream compliance analysis -- role of communication. Indeed, two practitioner-scholars, both of whom have extensive experience in the real world of compliance diplomacy, go so far to call persuasion the ?fundamental instrument? and ?principal engine? for securing compliance. While this is surely overstated, it does alert us to our impoverished analytic tool kit for exploring its role. Second, this focus restores a sense of agency to the social norms that may be central to learning. Norms are not just something out there, waiting to help actors learn; they are carried by individuals and organizations (?the persuader? in H#6) who actively seek, through deliberation and argumentation, to promote learning. [17]

While the above deductions partly overlap with the first set, further work is still needed -- for example, how to specify ?uncertain environments? and integrate political context. On the latter, my strong hunch is that persuasion will be more effective in less politicized and more insulated settings. All the same, both sets of hypotheses do elaborate scope conditions (when, under what conditions persuasion and learning/socialization are likely), which is precisely the promising middle-range theoretical ground that still awaits exploitation by both cognitive regime scholars and constructivists. [18]

In sum, the value added of this constructivist cut at compliance is to expand our repertoire of answers to the question: Why do social actors comply? In some cases, they may comply by learning new interests. The ontology here is not methodologically individualist, but relational; moreover, the theory of action is not consequentialist in any serious sense as agents are not making careful means-ends calculations, but, instead, puzzling. [19]

Methods: Measuring Persuasion/Learning and Social Sanctioning

Recall that my empirical concern is to document the processes through which agents come to comply with norms. The basic method is process-tracing, where one seeks ?to investigate and explain the decision process by which various initial conditions are translated into outcomes [compliance, in this case].? I operationalize the method through use of four techniques. [20]

First, I interview participants in contemporary policy debates, seeking to ascertain their awareness of emerging European norms on membership and citizenship (my focus here), and, more important, why -- or, indeed, whether -- they comply with the norms? prescriptions. In all instances, I utilized a similar interview protocol, starting with the general: "How, if at all, does German-Ukrainian-Russian national identity relate to the country's citizenship policies?" ?Are you aware of European-level work on such issues?? ?If so, how did you become aware of these norms -- media coverage, network participation, professional associations, personal contacts, etc?? These were followed by more specific questions, for example: "How do these norms affect your thinking about and work on citizenship/membership?? ?Do they prompt you to rethink the issue, and, if so, why?? ?What role does persuasion play?? ?Do you see them as tools in political battles, and, if so, in what ways??

My questions were designed to tap an individual's basic beliefs about citizenship/membership and what might be motivating him/her to change them -- that is, why he/she might be willing to comply with emerging European norms. On the latter, I gave interviewees several possibilities, including both their own cognitive uncertainty as well as external social pressure. I also suggested answers that addressed materialist incentives (changing citizenship practice might allow more immigrants to access a decreasing social-welfare pie), as well as identity concerns (changing citizenship practice would dilute the Germanness -- say -- of the country).

Second, as a supplement and check on interview data, I carry out a content analysis of major media and specialist publications (international law journals, reports produced by the NGO community, for example). This allowed for checking the beliefs and motivations of particular individuals who were both interviewees and participants in public debates.

Third, whenever necessary and possible, I consult official documentary records. For example, my first case below explores the supranational process through which the Council of Europe (CE) has come to promote revised European citizenship norms; this included a number of confidential meetings in Strasbourg of state representatives and CE bureaucrats. I therefore sought and gained access to the official summaries of those sessions.

Fourth, I model a key temporal dimension: the evolution of domestic norms in my policy area (citizenship and minority rights). Why this particular focus? Given my interest in compliance driven by emerging European norms, I thought it important also to ask what might create barriers to it. My hunch -- inspired by sociological theoretical logic and accumulating constructivist-ideational empirical research -- was that an important barrier would be historically constructed domestic identity norms, which could act as a filter hindering agent learning from regional/systemic norms. Drawing upon institutionalist insights, I argue that these norms gain particular staying power and political influence when they become institutionalized. Institutionalization is measured through indicators that are both bureaucratic (norms embedded in organizations) and legal (norms incorporated into judicial codes, laws and constitutions). [21]

Together, these techniques allow for a degree of triangulation when assessing the degree to which, and through what mechanism(s), domestic agents comply with new regional norms, thus increasing confidence in the validity of my results. This use of process-tracing along with a consideration of counterfactual explanations, where appropriate, allow me to minimize reliance on ?as if? assumptions at the national level (agents acting, speaking as if influenced by norms). [22]

In the three cases that follow, I look for evidence of and reasons for compliance at various levels -- both supranationally at the CE and domestically. For the latter, my focus is intentionally broad and includes elite decisionmakers, parliamentarians, trade unions, political parties, NGOs and immigrant/minority groups, among others.

The examples given below are just that -- examples and not fully elaborated case studies. Instead, I am drawing upon -- and, in some cases, reassessing -- my own previously published work to document that norm-driven compliance is both a process of cost/benefit sanctioning and shaming (as rationalists would predict) and one of learning (as constructivists would argue). Methodologically, in terms of outcomes, the following also suggests the crucial importance of employing counterfactual analysis -- especially at the national level. [23]

Case I: Compliance via Bargaining and Arguing -- A Norm is Born

For constructivists, is the process oriented, micro-level focus outlined in the preceding sections a feasible undertaking? Drawing upon my own work in progress, I suggest the answer is ?yes.? In a larger project, I am studying the evolution of new European citizenship norms; an important concern is to explain, at the European level, whether and how new understandings of citizenship are emerging -- that is, the process through which new citizenship norms emerge and why agents begin to comply with them. To date, my focus has been on Strasbourg and the Council of Europe, for this has been where the more serious, substantive work has occurred. When the CE is trying to develop new policy, it often sets up committees of experts under the Committee of Ministers, the intergovernmental body that sits atop the Council?s decisionmaking hierarchy. [24]

I have been examining the Committee of Experts on Nationality, the group that was charged with revising earlier European understandings of citizenship that dated from the 1960s. My interest was to describe and explain what occurred in this group as it met over a four year period -- in particular, why it changed existing understandings on dual citizenship to remove the strict prohibition that had previously existed at the European level. To address such issues, I did the following. Four rounds of field work were conducted in Strasbourg; during these trips, I interviewed various individuals who served on the Committee -- members of the Council Secretariat and experts. Then, I conducted interviews in several member-state capitals, meeting with national representatives to the committee of experts. Finally, as a cross-check on interview data, more recently I was granted partial access to the confidential meeting summaries of the Committee.

This was a considerable amount of work, but the pay off was high. Over time, particular individuals clearly shifted from what they viewed as a strategic bargaining game (for example, seeking side payments to advance given interests) to a process where basic preferences were rethought. This shift was particularly evident on the question of dual citizenship, where a growing number of committee members came to view the existing prohibition as simply wrong. Instead, they agreed on a new understanding that viewed multiple nationality in a more positive light.

Processes of persuasion and learning were key in explaining why individual members began to comply with this emerging norm, and such dynamics were facilitated by four factors. First, Committee members shared a largely common educational and professional background, being trained as lawyers who had for many years dealt with issues of immigration and nationality (H#1). Second, the group was meeting at a time when there was a growing sense of policy failure: The number of dual nationals was climbing rapidly despite the existing prohibition (H#2). Third, the shift from a bargaining to an arguing game was greatly facilitated by the committee?s insulation from publicity and overt political pressure. Indeed, it benefited from the public perception of Strasbourg as a quiet backwater -- with the real action occurring in Brussels (the EU?s provisions for a ?European citizenship?). This allowed it to meet and work out revised understandings on citizenship prior to any overt politicization of its work (H#4).

Fourth and perhaps most important, the Committee contained three members who were both highly respected by other group participants and renowned for their powers of persuasion. Indeed, several different interviewees, with no prodding by me, identified these same individuals as playing central roles in ?changing people?s minds? -- not through arm twisting, but by the power of arguments. That is, the Committee possessed effective persuaders who were authoritative members of the in-group (H#6). [25]

At the same time, it should be stressed that not all committee members complied with the emerging norm or learned new interests. Indeed, one national representative held deeply ingrained beliefs that were opposed to arguments favoring a relaxation of prohibitions on dual citizenship. Consistent with the above deductions (H#7), there is no evidence this individual was persuaded to alter his basic preferences. Instead, he consistently tried to steer group meetings toward an intergovernmental bargaining game, showing up with long lists of talking points that made clear his and his government?s concerns -- especially on the question of multiple nationality. [26]

The point of this example is not to dismiss rationalist accounts of compliance. Rather, it is to note the value added of a middle-range constructivist supplement to these more standard portrayals: It led me to ask new questions and employ a different set of research techniques. The result was to broaden our understanding of how new European norms are constructed, and how agents come to comply with their prescriptions through processes of non-strategic interaction.

Whether or not one accepts my particular arguments, the basic point remains. In making claims about learning, persuasion or arguing promoted by, or conducted within, regimes and institutions, cognitive regime theorists and constructivists must better theorize these dynamics. This injunction applies not just to IR scholars: Among (non-rationalist) students of European integration, it has become almost a cottage industry in recent years to cite such processes as central, while simultaneously failing to elaborate their theoretical underpinnings. The result has been a near total disconnect between analytic claims and empirical documentation that such dynamics are at work. As one scholar has correctly noted, ?what is needed is a decision-making theory which includes in its analysis the ways in which preferences, beliefs and desires are shaped by participation in the decision-making process itself.? [27]

Case II: Compliance via Social Sanctioning -- A Norm is Contested

My German study highlights the importance of institutional variables in explaining compliance outcomes, the role of rational choice in the social sanctioning mechanism so often highlighted by constructivists, and methodologically, the importance of employing counterfactual analysis. I treat each of these in turn. [28]

History and Institutions Matter. As discussed in the preceding section, European norms on citizenship and membership are evolving. They are moving in a more inclusive direction, with emphasis on broadened understandings of both citizenship and the rights of national minorities; in particular, these CE norms promote inclusion by facilitating dual citizenship. In Germany, dual citizenship would promote the assimilation of the large foreigner population. In most cases, present German law requires immigrants and foreigners to give up their original citizenship if they wish to seek it in Germany; this is an obstacle to integration since many do not wish to sever all ties to their homeland. The importance of dual citizenship for large parts of the foreigner community is so great that they acquire it through illegal methods that contravene German law. [29]

The lack of fit between these changing regional norms and understandings of identity and citizenship held by many Germans is significant. While there are clear historical reasons why these understandings took hold in Germany, the important point is that they have been reinforced over time and are now institutionalized in domestic laws and institutions. Legal and bureaucratic indicators as well as textual analysis and interview data all suggest the embedded nature of these domestic norms. [30]

To give one example: The German citizenship statute, as of March 1999, continues to be based on a ?Law on Imperial and State Citizenship? that dates from 1913, and an ethnic conception of identity is maintained throughout the German legal system -- notably in Article 116 (1) of the Basic Law, the post-war German constitution. Indeed, the ethnic core of the 1913 citizenship law is reproduced in the Basic Law via a so-called "Nationalstaatsprinzip" (the Nation-State Principle), which makes very clear that there is a material core (that is, blood ties) connecting a citizen and his/her nation. As one analyst has noted, this basic principle, despite minor modifications over the years, "remains effective until [the] present." [31]

Why bother with this history and background? For a simple -- theoretical -- reason: Work on ?role conflict? in cognitive/social psychology and on ?cultural matches? in sociology strongly suggests that, when one studies the diffusion of regime norms, a crucial variable affecting whether national agents comply with their prescriptions will be the normative environment into which they diffuse. In particular, for cases like the German one, where there is a degree of mismatch between regional and institutionalized domestic norms, one should expect heightened levels of normative contestation and a short-circuiting of social learning as agents find themselves in multiple (domestic, regional) institutional settings that evoke conflicting roles. Compliance via sanctioning and cost/benefit analysis should thus be more likely. [32]

Social Sanctions and Mobilization. Recent years have witnessed an explosion of social protest and mobilization on questions of citizenship and the situation of foreigners in Germany, with key roles being played by the liberal media, churches, trade unions, grassroots citizens' initiatives, and the commissioners for foreigners' affairs.

Here, I present two examples of such mobilization, documenting the extent to which CE/European norms promote it, and, at a micro-level, exploring how these norms connect to domestic agents. To begin, the churches have been one important social force helping to mobilize pressure and peaceful protest. In recent years, the governing bodies of the Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic denominations have called for Germany to adopt an immigration and integration policy for its resident foreigners, including acceptance of dual citizenship and a move to greater elements of jus soli in German law. In Berlin, the Evangelical church has produced flyers on dual citizenship; these make the case for it by referring, among other factors, to emerging European norms and recent work by the Council of Europe. In the best corporatist tradition, the churches have also sought to make their views known by participating in conferences and policy networks on issues of foreigners' rights. [33]

In a second example, one sees the broader public -- in the form of a grassroots citizens' initiative -- playing a key role. Seizing upon a policy window created by the surge in anti-foreigner violence that accompanied German unification, a group of activists based in Berlin orchestrated, beginning in 1992, an initiative that was specifically focused on the need for dual citizenship in German law; it gathered over 1 million signatures from a broad array of public figures. It was a textbook example of how to mobilize public pressure on a specific policy issue. The campaign coordinated its actions with other social actors (specifically, the Evangelical Church), collected signatures from prominent German academics and public figures, and secured free publicity for the initiative in the centrist-liberal German press (Der Spiegel, Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Berliner Zeitung, among others). [34]

Moreover, the existence of European understandings favoring inclusive conceptions of citizenship played an important role in the campaign. Signature collectors pointed to the presence of such norms, and, more generally, the initiative distributed an information sheet noting that Germany's refusal to recognize multiple nationality made it "an international exception." [35]

These examples confirm what much of the constructivist literature has already documented: that regional/systemic norms can promote national compliance by helping spark a process of social sanctioning and mobilization. Yet, exactly how, at the agent level, did this occur? That is, why were social actors complying with normative injunctions? My interviewing and fieldwork reveal a mixed picture. In the majority of cases (trade unions, press, churches), these agents were using CE norms to pursue given ends; they were an additional tool that could be instrumentally used to generate pressure on government policymakers, who then engaged in cost/benefit analyses. Large parts of the compliance dynamic, in other words, were consistent with key elements of a more enlightened rationalist regime argument. [36]

On the last point, let me be clear. The claim is not that these agents were pursuing material interests. (Although, this may have been true in some cases.) Rather, I am suggesting that the behavioral logic was consistent with a so-called ?thin? rationalist account, where the goals pursued may be non-material (normative values, say), but the underlying theory of action is still consequentialist -- means-ends -- in nature. While such a combination has recently been endorsed by several prominent theorists, who speak of a process of ?strategic social construction,? it is not clear what, if anything, is uniquely constructivist in such compliance accounts. [37]

A final point about the social sanctioning described above is its apparent lack of effect. Throughout the mid-1990s, German policymakers decided not to comply, despite this pressure and mobilization. Minor changes to citizenship and nationality laws were indeed enacted during these years; however, on the key issue of dual citizenship, stasis and lack of change prevailed.

Compliance Attained and Regional Norms Triumphant? At this point, the knowledgeable reader may exclaim ?wait a minute?! Surely, this deadlocked state of affairs changed dramatically after the September 1998 federal elections, when the CDU/CSU coalition was replaced by a Social Democratic Party (SPD) - Green one. As of this writing (mid-March 1999), the new government is within weeks of legislating far-reaching changes to Germany?s nationality laws. Among other liberalizing proposals, these will allow dual citizenship, albeit most likely for a strictly limited period, after which immigrants must choose German nationality or that of their ?home? country. Interpreting these changes drives home the importance and necessity of systematically integrating both institutional and counterfactual analysis into studies of compliance. [38]

Theoretically, recent events confirm the relevance of my earlier discussion of role conflict and cultural matches, with historically constructed and institutionalized ethnic conceptions of German identity clashing with new, emergent and more civic understandings. Indeed, the SPD/Green citizenship reform proposals have both intensified this clash and revealed its deeper normative dimension. The result has been a wide-ranging public debate in Germany unlike any -- with the exception of those over the Holocaust -- seen in many years. It is a heated and impassioned disagreement over what it means to be German. For sure, some of the rhetoric is just that: Rhetoric employed strategically in an ongoing political contest.

In many other cases, however, it goes beyond this, to what Free Democratic Party (FDP) general secretary Westerwelle has called ?immigration policies from the gut? -- that is, behavior driven not by politics and strategizing, but by more fundamental identity conceptions. The results of the Hesse state election in February 1999, where the CDU/CSU scored an upset victory by exploiting deep popular concern over dual citizenship and its impact on German identity, vividly confirm the importance of this normative dimension in the current debate. As outgoing Hesse governor Hans Eichel noted, the question of double citizenship ?became so emotional that it mobilized the opposition.? Put differently, institutional analysis at this deepest, normative level is essential for fully understanding why German social actors comply -- or, more to the point, do not comply -- with the prescriptions embodied in new regional norms. [39]

This said, one must still ask: Are not the recent changes compelling evidence of the power of norms to promote compliance, especially through a process of social sanctioning? After all, there is a striking correlation between the content of the SPD/Green proposals, on the one hand, and the prescriptions embedded in emerging European norms and the reforms earlier advocated by numerous groups/movements in Germany, on the other. Yet, correlation is not causation, and I am skeptical of any strong claims along these lines. For one, the shift in policy also correlates with a dramatic changeover at the elite level. SPD Chancellor Schroeder is not simply a ?third way,? Blairite social democrat; equally important, he signals the arrival in power of a truly post-war generation of German politicians. And generational change of this sort is often a key causal variable behind radical policy shifts, especially at the ideational/normative level highlighted here. [40]

Methodologically, however, it is crucially important to ask the counterfactual: Absent the development of new regional norms and absent domestic social sanctioning, would liberalizing changes to conceptions of citizenship in any case be occurring in a modern industrial democracy such as Germany? That is, would it look like compliance driven by norms when in fact something else was at work? While it is beyond the limits of the present paper to conduct a thorough analysis of this sort, there are reasons to expect the answer might be ?yes.? For example, it has been persuasively argued that immigration/nationality policy in liberal states has an in-built bias towards becoming more expansionist and inclusive over time: It is dominated by client politics, where small and often well-organized employer, human-rights and ethnic groups work with state officials outside public view to promote more inclusive membership policies. While the sentiment of the general public is typically anti-immigration, this interest is diffuse; in contrast, the interests of immigrant advocacy groups tend to be concentrated. Collective action problems thus explain: (a) the public?s inability to bring about more restrictive change; and (b) why the preferences of the better organized liberal interest groups tend to prevail. [41]

Indeed, the very process of exploring the counterfactual helps me sharpen the argument. In particular, I would reconcile the three causal strands identified above -- social sanctioning spurred by regional norms, generational turnover and client politics -- in the following manner. For one, it is very likely that the SPD election victory and accompanying generational shift simply accelerated a process of change that was already under way, due to the mobilization dynamics sketched earlier. Moreover, the ?concentrated interests? of the advocacy groups engaged in client politics were likely more ?mobilizeable? due to the existence of new regional norms, and, in some cases, learned in the first place via exposure to them.

My more general point is that detailed process tracing along with careful consideration of counterfactuals are crucial components of any argument about norm-driven compliance. Use of both techniques will allow constructivists and cognitive regime theorists to delimit more carefully the scope of their explanatory claims, thus stimulating dialogue with theoretical opponents.

Case III: Compliance via Persuasion/Learning -- A Norm Teaches

In Ukraine, one is immediately struck by the small role of social sanctioning as a mechanism of norm-driven compliance; CE norms have mattered most at the elite/state level, where the demand for new principles and norms has been high. Now, perhaps this result is skewed by the absence of a key variable: transnational networks promoting normative change. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Since 1989 and, in many cases, long before, human-rights practices in post-Soviet states -- including Ukraine -- have been targeted by a wide range of actors: international organizations such as the CE, OSCE and, more recently, the European Union; numerous international NGOs; and wealthy industrialized democracies who have crafted assistance programs specifically designed to empower new social actors in these transition polities. Thus, in principle, the network was in place to spur compliance through a process of social sanctioning and mobilization. [42]

However, the latter has not occurred. Instead, due primarily to the efforts of a small number of individuals and units within the state, Ukrainian discourse and law on citizenship and rights issues have changed in ways consistent with emerging CE norms on national membership. In contrast to many other post-Soviet states, Ukraine has moved to create a civic definition of citizenship. This inclusive conception of national identity has helped policymakers craft one of the more liberal minority-rights regimes in the former Soviet area. A decree and a law on national minorities that permit a high degree of cultural autonomy have been promulgated. In addition, civic conceptions of citizenship and minority rights are explicitly embraced in the new constitution adopted in June 1996. [43]

Compliance and Social Learning. Four factors were key in promoting this process of compliance. First, there was the establishment in June, 1993, of an Interdepartmental Commission for Questions of Ukraine's Admission to the Council of Europe. It was based at the Foreign Ministry and headed by then First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk. The Commission came to play a major role on citizenship and rights issues; within it, Tarasyuk was a progressive force. Those who dealt with Tarasyuk described a creative thinker who encouraged subordinates to seek out new ideas and approaches. His own unclear preferences (see H#5 above) led him to use the Commission as a vehicle for soliciting a wide range of advice on rights issues within Ukraine as well as from the international community. [44]

Second, the head of the Citizenship Division within the Presidential Administration, turned out, largely by chance, to be a liberal-minded former academic: Petro Chaliy. Chaliy and those he gathered around him were very open to regional norms and the prescriptions they embodied. Their views mattered because in the top-heavy Ukrainian state, the presidential administration -- even more so than post-Soviet Russia -- plays a dominant role in policymaking. [45]

According to Ukrainian participants in the work of both Tarasyuk?s Commission and Chaliy?s Division, Council of Europe expertise and the norms it promotes were central to shaping nationality laws and policies. Several components of the minorities law, for example, are modelled on the Council's European Convention on Human Rights. Process tracing of this sort allows me to move beyond correlations and establish a causal role for Council norms. More important, it reveals the mechanism through which Ukrainian agents came to comply with CE norms: learning. Tarasyuk and Chaliy are examples of moral entrepreneurs -- individuals open to learning from new norms and willing to promote them. Moreover, the promoters of these norms were not NGOs utilizing a politics of social sanctioning, but regional experts engaged in a calm dialogue within state structures that played out over many months (see H#3 above). These experts were mainly capable and committed staffers from the CE, that is, ?authoritative members of the in-group to which the persuadee ... wants to belong? (H#6). [46]

Third, pre-existing institutional structure played a central, causal role in promoting compliance via social learning. In particular, the autonomous and insulated nature of Ukrainian state institutions, which lessoned the amount of political friction to which administrative elites were exposed, gave agents like Tarasyuk and Chaliy the possibility of learning new preferences on citizenship and minority rights (H#4). However, a crucial question is why this possibility turned into a reality. What motivated these agents to learn? One factor, readily admitted in interviews was a simple combination of Western coercion and Ukrainian strategic interest. Given its large and unpredictable neighbour to the east (Russia), Ukraine had a clear interest in joining ?Euro-Atlantic structures,? as Ukrainian policymakers never tire of declaring. To join required membership in Western Europe?s key institutions -- most notably, for my purposes, the Council of Europe. Yet, this membership was withheld for several years (1991-93), in a direct attempt to coerce Ukraine into adopting and implementing CE principles. Thus external (material) sanctions and domestic cost/benefit calculations, as the rationalist regime compliance literature would predict, were causally important.

At the same time, this strategic adaptation argument fails to capture important parts of the compliance story. Much of the elite learning occurred in 1993 and early 1994; it thus predates Kuchma's election as president in July, 1994, when Ukraine made a strategic decision to seek closer ties with various Western institutions. Relatedly, the years 1993-94 saw an extensive debate in Ukraine over the "neutrality option" -- seeking a position independent of both West Europe and Russia. At that point, there was thus no consensus on a balancing strategy against Russia, which clearly would have made it in Ukraine's self interest to instrumentally adopt Council norms. Thus, it is empirically incorrect to assert that instrumental/rationalist arguments alone are adequate for explaining the outcome. [47]

Fourth, many of these Ukrainian agents were truly novices (H#7). Consider Dr. Chaliy in the Presidential Administration. Before taking this position, he was a researcher at the Institute of State and Law of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; his scholarly work focused on constitutional law and local self-governance. Thus, like many other new elites in post-communist states, Chaliy found himself in an unfamiliar position, dealing with issues of first principle: the fundamental normative guidelines for Ukraine?s conception of citizenship and membership. In fact, testimony from those who observed him in various meetings/workshops makes clear that persuasion and argumentation, based on prescriptions embodied in regional norms, promoted learning. [48]

A comparison with post-Soviet Russia is instructive. For the latter, many ?new? elites are holdovers from the Soviet era, a fact explained by the massive size of the Soviet/Russian apparatus. In contrast, the USSR bequeathed Ukraine a vastly smaller personnel inheritance, as most key decisions during the Soviet period were taken in Moscow. Thus, in relative terms, Ukraine was forced to recruit more outsiders for positions such as Chaliy?s, which, in turn, has increased the probability of agent learning -- due to the noviceness of these individuals. [49]

The (Non-) Role of Social Sanctioning. Moving beyond the elite level, an important issue, from an analytic perspective, is the absence in Ukraine of compliance spurred by social sanctioning. As already noted, Europe possesses a robust and large human-rights network; thus, the necessary conditions for the mobilization of transnational/domestic pressure -- the ?boomerang? -- would seem to be in place. However, for three reasons such mobilization has failed.

First, the Ukrainian NGO community, when compared to its Western, Asian or even Russian counterparts, is extraordinarily young, with most NGOs only 4-5 years old. One often encounters NGOs that are basically one individual; moreover, even for genuine NGOs, lack of experience and poor networking with like-minded organizations have resulted in many false starts and weakened their ability to mobilize public pressure. Compounding these internal problems is the poorly developed state of the Ukrainian press: Even when NGOs do orchestrate pressure campaigns, the media, due to inexperience, often fails to cover them. [50]

Second, NGOs in Ukraine are operating in a fiscal and political environment that, to say the least, is inhospitable. On the former, the taxation and incorporation laws currently in effect make it virtually impossible for NGOs to survive -- unless, that is, they engage in commercial activities that consume valuable time and energy. The political setting as well has worsened in recent years, with many NGOs and activists complaining of a growing gap that separates governmental structures from civil society. The legislature (Rada), in particular, reacts very negatively to any overt NGO pressure campaigns. [51]

Third, Ukrainian NGOs have a strategic disincentive to engage in social sanctioning activity. Why? With good ties to individuals newly installed in state institutions, it simply makes good strategic sense to exploit, instead, these personal contacts, seeking to exert behind-the-scenes influence. Unfortunately, this is an unreliable mechanism through which to pursue norm-driven compliance, given the rapid personnel turnover in so many government departments. Indeed, NGOs were ecstatic when Serhiy Holovaty, who is considered one of the founding fathers of the Ukrainian civil-society/NGO movement, was appointed Minister of Justice in September 1995; yet, he was removed from this post less than two years later in a government reshuffle. [52]

Correlation, Causation and Counterfactuals. In sum, one has a clear correlation between CE norms and a compliance process driven by social learning; this has led to important changes in Ukrainian citizenship and minority rights policy. Furthermore, process tracing confirms a significant causal role for these regional norms. Nonetheless, to delimit more clearly my explanatory claims it is essential to explore the counterfactual. Specifically, would Ukrainian policy on citizenship and membership be any different in the absence of compliance with CE norms? Given that over 25% of its population consists of national minorities, could not self interest alone explain the adoption of liberal policies -- thus making ?compliance? with CE norms largely epiphenomenal? The weak answer is that, yes, self interest explains why new policies were considered in the first place, but that Council-sponsored norms tell much about their content.

The strong answer begins by observing that a country's objective interest in dealing with minority populations is not always clear -- witness the differing ways in which Croatia, Hungary and Latvia have dealt with minorities within their borders. Compared to other similarly situated countries with similar problems, Ukraine has reacted with a much more liberal and inclusive conception of minorities' place within the state. This indicates a stronger role for norms in shaping the very definition of interests.

None of this is to deny the role that strategic calculation has played in the compliance dynamics discussed above. At the same time, my results point to the clear limitation of rationalist analyses of the CE/European-rights regime, which argue that states comply with its norms as elites, with fixed interests and in the face of societal pressure, conduct careful cost/benefit calculations. Something else is occurring at the agent level, with elites complying because they have leaned new interests. More generally, the Ukrainian case suggests that recent constructivist studies of norm-driven compliance may have over-emphasized, in causal terms, the role played by a politics of social sanctioning at the expense of a process of learning. [53]

Involuntary Non-Compliance. If I stopped at this point, Ukraine would appear as the great compliance success story. However, more recent events paint a different picture and suggest, again, the importance of integrating institutional variables into studies of compliance. Indeed, from the perspective of an outside observer, the same agents who had learned new preferences in the human-rights/citizenship area and had helped get progressive laws on the books were surprisingly unmotivated to insure that proper policy machinery was in place to implement new human-rights practices. However, they had few strategic incentives, given the centralization of state structures and their autonomy from key societal actors, to worry about such matters. [54]

Not surprisingly then, as the 1990s progressed, Ukraine went from being one of the Council of Europe?s ?star pupils? to something more akin to a ?problem child.? Problems arose in the areas of citizenship (situation of Crimean Tartars), minority rights (status of Russian language) and human rights (serious difficulties in implementing penal reform; continuing use of death penalty). The argument here is not that Ukrainian policymakers had become bad or ?unlearned? their new preferences; rather, incentives flowing from the institutional context led them, unintentionally, to undercut Ukraine?s ability to comply with CE prescriptions. As rationalists would correctly predict, the structure of the game had logically led to the selection of certain -- flawed, in this case -- strategies. Put differently, the institutional incentive structure inherited from Soviet times generated unintended consequences, specifically, inattention to implementation mechanisms; the result was ?involuntary non-compliance.? [55]

An example, taken specifically from the human-rights area, is helpful here. An important step forward for Ukraine (and most other post-Soviet states) has been elimination of the death penalty. To Americans, this may seem odd; however, in Europe a strong norm against it exists. Indeed, a prerequisite of CE membership is that states remove death penalty statutes from their judicial codes. In Ukraine, this never actually happened. Instead, several years ago, President Kuchma did the logical thing: He issued a decree -- just like in Soviet times -- announcing a moratorium on executions. The necessary implementation procedures -- changes to the Ukrainian judicial code, an information campaign to convince a sceptical public why the penalty should be banned, say -- were never fully carried out. In fact, during 1996, Ukraine conducted 167 executions, which, worldwide, was second only to China. Council officials in Strasbourg, to say the least, are dismayed at this state of affairs, and, more recently, have begun efforts to help Ukraine develop the necessary legal and social implementation mechanisms. [56]

Conditionality and Compliance. The last comment highlights an important issue: How the conditionality policy of an international organization affects its strategies to attain compliance. Many such organizations (the EU, NATO or the World Trade Organization, say) utilize a rather strict conditionality criterion: An applicant must do x, y and z before attaining membership status, that is, be in nearly full compliance with fundamental regime norms. In contrast, the Council of Europe has pursued a mixed policy: Once an applicant like Ukraine is deemed to be on the way to full compliance, membership is granted. Council officials are very explicit on the logic here: The best way to attain compliance with core regime norms is to bring applicant countries into the institution as quickly as possible, where they can then ?persuade? and ?socialize? them. [57]

This policy becomes problematic, however, if new members then become non-compliant. What strategies can be employed to attain/restore compliance? Many of the tools stressed by the mainstream regime compliance literature -- material sanctions, attempts to influence the cost/benefit calculations of national officials, say -- would seem to be of little help. Furthermore, in the case of the CE, countries like Ukraine know that the institution has been very reluctant to employ sanctions of this sort, especially once a country has membership status. Instead, Council officials have thus sought to reinforce the social context of CE membership and have done so through a new, non-public monitoring procedure designed not to sanction, but persuade recalcitrant members to move toward compliance. [58]

This procedure is quite new, but several of its features suggest the utility of constructivist methods for studying its impact on member states? compliance records. For one, it is built around an ongoing series of small, private seminars in Strasbourg (H#3, H#4 above) that bring together CE bureaucrats, experts and national officials. More important, the central dynamic at these meetings is not finger pointing and shaming, but persuasion and the power of arguments (H#5, H#6). It is worth quoting at length one Council document on how the seminars work.


There is thus both an individual and collective recognition that certain situations are not compatible with commitments entered into and that these situations must be changed. This process of recognition is facilitated by the fact that the discussions take place in camera and that an atmosphere of understanding and cooperation allows Representatives of member States to become aware of other member States? opinions on certain aspects of their national situation. They also discover that other member States have had to face similar problems. Exchange of experience can therefore take place to identify ways of dealing with the situation.

In this process, ?diplomatic persuasion? is seen as playing a central role. [59]

Council officials claim the seminars have helped persuade several member states to improve instances of non-compliance. For example, Ukraine (and Russia) have more recently promulgated new moratoriums on further use of the death penalty. Obviously, such assertions need to be verified through additional process tracing and empirical analysis. Theoretically, however, the episode again highlights constructivism?s value added for studying compliance -- in particular, its stress on regimes and international organizations as social institutions, where language, persuasion and learning are causally important. [60]


I conclude by addressing two issues: the importance of integrating institutional factors into compliance studies, and a need for greater attention to the development of scope conditions.

Institutional Analysis. My case studies suggest three different ways in which institutions matter in the compliance process. First, institutional legacies can frustrate the well-intentioned plans of national agents to comply. This involuntary defection dynamic was clearly at work in my Ukrainian case. Second, the structure of domestic institutions seems to be key in explaining variance in the mechanisms through which compliance occurs. Consider again the German and Ukrainian cases: Ceteris paribus, the relatively insulated nature of Ukrainian institutions increased the likelihood that compliance would be attained via persuasion and learning; likewise, pluralist German institutions made it likely that social sanctioning would play a more important role in the compliance process. [61]

Third, institutions were also causally important at a deeper level. In particular, pre-existing norms were key in affecting agent willingness to comply with the injunctions of emerging European understandings. The presence of such cognitive priors hindered compliance (the one national representative in the Strasbourg case; many elites in the German case), while their absence promoted it through persuasion and learning (the noviceness of so many agents in my Ukrainian study).

Consistent with the problem-driven focus of this paper, I should note that these three institutional effects are best captured and explained by differing theoretical tool kits. The first dynamic -- involuntary defection -- is one that rational-choice analysts have often highlighted, while the third -- normative structures -- is best theorized through sociological and constructivist approaches. The second, which is essentially a domestic structures argument, sits somewhat uneasily between rational choice and social constructivist analyses. Thus, one important lesson to draw from these findings is that researchers would do well to cast their nets broadly when asking why social actors comply. [62]

Scope Conditions. The sceptical response to the foregoing is ?fine, the real world may be complicated, but such calls for synthesis are a prescription for ?analytic mush? and ?kitchen sink? arguments, where everything ?matters?.? While this claim is overstated, it does raise the central challenge for approaches such as mine: the development of so-called scope or boundary conditions. That is, when and under what conditions are rationalist as opposed to constructivist methods more appropriate for understanding why social actors comply? To be fair, I have advanced a number of such conditions in this essay: the second and third institutional factors above and my earlier discussion of persuasion and social learning (H#1 - H#7). However, more work is required: To take just one example, the role of power is underspecified in my various propositions. [63]

Despite such difficulties, there are two important reasons for proceeding in a more synthetic direction. First, analytic synthesis is essential if we are to understand fully why social actors comply with norms. In this essay, I have examined the European human rights regime; a powerful argument has been made that rational choice approaches are necessary and sufficient for explaining why states comply with its injunctions. Yet, my Ukrainian case indicates that compliance at times occurs through dynamics that simply cannot be captured through standard rationalist accounts. Theoretical pluralism is thus necessary to explain this empirical reality. [64]

Second, my stress on synthesis intersects with a growing trend in IR theory, where there is a pronounced move away from an ?either/or? orientation (either rational choice or constructivism) to a ?both/and? perspective. This shift is seen in forums as diverse as the flagship journal of German IR, regime analysis, the 50th anniversary issue of International Organization and the work of prominent rationalists. Theoretical opponents, in other words, are spending less and less time hurtling meta-theoretical insults at each other, and, more and more, conducting an empirically informed dialogue, where tough issues of process, operationalization and scope are addressed. [65]


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* Paper presented at the workshop on ?Why Do Social Actors Comply? Comparing European and International Norms,? directed by Christian Joerges and Michael Zuern. European Consortium for Political Research, 27th Joint Sessions of Workshops, Mannheim, March 1999. The financial support of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and Norwegian Research Council is gratefully acknowledged.

** ARENA/Universitetet i Oslo, P.O.Box 1143 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway

Tel: (47) 22 85 56 97, Fax: (47) 22 85 78 32, E-mail:


1]. Katzenstein 1996 is a good introduction to the first generation empirical work. On the move toward a more micro-level focus, see Johnston 1998a, b (persuasion, social influence); Price 1998 (learning); Risse 1998 (arguing and communicative rationality); and Checkel 1999d (persuasion, learning).

[2]. Helpful surveys of the regime/regime-compliance literature include Rittberger 1995; Chayes and Chayes 1995, chapter 1; and Zuern 1998. On constructivism, see Adler 1997; and Ruggie 1998b.

[3]. On these points, see the excellent discussion in Levy, Young, Zuern 1995, 295, 304-306, 312-14. Also see Hasenclever, Mayer, Rittberger 1996, 177-205; and Underdal?s models ?A? and ?B? for explaining compliance, in Underdal 1998, 7-20. Underdal?s discussion is especially helpful for understanding why mainstream work on regime compliance has slighted questions of process -- be it at the national level or within the institutions that comprise a particular regime. Thanks to Dag Harald Claes (ARENA/Universitetet i Oslo) for discussions on this regime literature.

[4]. See Ernst Haas 1990, chapter 2, passim; Adler 1997, 337-41; and Ruggie 1998b, 867-69, for example. Also see Underdal?s model ?C,? in Underdal 1998, 20-23. In the comparative literature, Heclo 1974, 305, passim, advances similar arguments. On agent/cognitive uncertainty, see Moltz 1993, 301-309 (organizational and decisionmaking literatures); and Peter Haas 1992 (epistemic approach).

[5]. On these methodological/theoretical problems, see Levy, Young, Zuern 1995, 306; Hasenclever, Mayer, Rittberger 1996, 212-13; and Underdal 1998, 22. Examples of this cognitive/learning approach, which demonstrate the frustrating disconnect between theory and empirical operationalization, include Ernst Haas 1990, 138-54; Adler 1991; Harald Mueller, ?The Internalization of Principles, Norms and Rules by Governments: The Case of Security Regimes,? in Rittberger 1995, chapter 15; Christer Joensson, ?Cognitive Factors in Explaining Regime Dynamics,? in Rittberger 1995, chapter 9; and Chayes and Chayes 1995, chapter 1.

[6]. For details, see Checkel 1998. Finnemore 1996 is a superb example of the strengths -- and weaknesses -- of such structural arguments. To reiterate: My focus here is the work of modernist constructivists.

[7]. For details on the following, as well as full citations, see Checkel 1999a, 3-6.

[8]. See Cortell and Davis 1996 (on the US); and Moravcsik 1995 (on West Europe), for example.

[9]. Klotz 1995a, b; Keck and Sikkink 1998, passim; and Koh 1997, Part III, passim, for example.

[10]. For evidence of norms constituting domestic societal agents, see Wapner 1995. Compare this constitutive dynamic with the implicit rationalist account in Ron 1997.

[11]. Risse and Sikkink 1999; see also Keck and Sikkink 1998, 3, 28-29. In Checkel 1999a, I argue that these biases are explained by the close connections between constructivist work of this type and an earlier generation of research on social movements. See, especially, Tarrow 1998, chapter 11.

[12]. Among others, see Soysal 1994; Risse-Kappen 1995; and Finnemore 1996.

[13]. Levy 1994 is an excellent introduction to the learning literature.

[14]. These hypotheses derive from a number of sources. See DiMaggio and Powell 1991, passim; Peter Haas 1990, 1992; Hall 1993; Risse-Kappen 1996; Hasenclever, Mayer, Rittberger 1996, 206-207; and Checkel 1997a, chapters 1, 5.

[15]. Johnson 1993 provides an excellent and balanced discussion of the theoretically incomplete role accorded communication in rational-choice analyses.

[16]. On these deductions, see Zimbardo and Leippe 1991; Underdal 1998, 21; and Johnston 1998a, 16-25.

[17]. For the practitioner-scholar quotes, see Chayes and Chayes 1995, 25-26. On the neglected role of persuasion and communication, also see Joensson 1990, 11-12, passim.

[18]. Underdal 1998, 23; and Checkel 1998, respectively. On the insulation/persuasion connection, also see Pierson 1993, 617-18. These deductions on persuasion may be useful to German constructivists as they grapple with the difficult task of operationalizing Habermasian notions of communicative rationality -- Risse 1998, for example.

[19]. On constructivism?s relational ontology, see Ruggie 1998a, 4. At this point, the methodologically inclined reader may cry foul: The ?deductions? generated in this section (especially those preceding Note 14) come in part from literatures that are highly inductive in nature. I thus run the risk of importing into my analysis the biases of this earlier work. While this problem is real, it can be mitigated -- for example, by employing counterfactual analysis, by refining my hypotheses in light of new empirical findings (so-called ?abduction?), and by comparing the hypotheses with (laboratory generated) deductions on learning and persuasion. I do not start with the latter because they are nearly devoid of politics and institutions, which so obviously play key roles in any empirical analysis.

[20]. George and McKeown 1985.

[21]. On the sociological logic, see below. For constructivist-ideational empirical research that documents the importance of domestic normative barriers, see Adler 1987; Sikkink 1991; and Klotz 1995b, chapter 7. On institutionalization and the political influence of norms and other ideational variables, see Longstreth 1992; Katzenstein 1993; and Goldstein 1993.

[22]. My techniques replicate Zuern's excellent suggestions for "using documents" and "asking experts" when one wants to establish agent interests independent of behavior, a methodological challenge analogous to the one faced here. Zuern 1997, 298-302. On triangulation and norms, also see Raymond 1997, 219-222.

[23]. The Strasbourg case is fully documented in Checkel 1999b, 94-96; and Idem 1999d; the German case in Checkel 1999b, 96-107; and the Ukrainian study in Checkel 1999c.

[24]. My Strasbourg/CE field work was conducted in four rounds: May 1994, June-July 1995, April 1997 and November 1998.

[25]. These individuals were the Swiss, Italian and Austrian representatives. See Interviews: Horst Schade, former Secretary to the Committee, May 1994, June-July 1995, November 1998; GianLuca Esposito, current Secretary to the Committee, June-July 1995, April 1997, November 1998; and Ambassador Ulrich Hack, Head, Permanent Representation of Austria to the Council of Europe and former Chair of the Committee, November 1998. In these interviews, I suggested four possible ways to characterize dynamics within the group: coercion, bargaining, copying/imitation, persuasion/arguing. Interviewees were then asked to rank order them; persuasion/arguing consistently came out on top. Also see Council of Europe 1993; and Idem 1994.

[26]. This individual was the German representative, whom I interviewed on two separate occasions. Also see Interviews, as in preceding Note, for confirmation of my account here.

[27]. Kerremans 1996, 221. Kerremans makes this observation with respect to the EU; however, I would argue it holds equally well for cognitive regime theory and constructivism. For evidence of this analytic-empirical disconnect in integration studies, see Joergensen, ?PoCo: The Diplomatic Republic of Europe,? in Joergensen 1997, 174-75; and Falkner 1998, 6-7, 12, 17, passim, among many, many others. Important exceptions include Joerges and Neyer 1997a, b.

[28]. Field work for the German case was conducted in four rounds: March 1995, June-August 1995, May 1996, August 1996 - January 1998.

[29]. Martina Keller, "Einbuergern, Ausbuergern, Einbuergern," Die Zeit, March 27, 1997.

[30]. For background, see Kanstroom 1993.

[31]. Kreuzer 1997, 2.

[32]. On role conflict, see Stryker 1980; and the related discussion in Goffman 1974, chapter 10. For an empirical application, see the excellent analysis in Barnett 1993. On cultural matches, see Meyer and Strang 1993. The arguments here overlap and, indeed, provide additional analytic support for H#7 discussed above: Agents with significant ?cognitive priors? are less susceptible to persuasion and learning.

[33]. See Jochen Buchsteiner, "Konzepte, die erst reifen muessen," Die Zeit, November 18, 1994; Interview, Thomae-Venske, Commissioner for Foreigners' Affairs, Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg, May 1996; and GermNews, January 7, 1999. For the flyer, see AHandreichung zum Thema: Doppelte Staatsbuergerschaft" (Berlin, 1995).

[34]. See "Unser Ziel: 1 Million Unterschriften fuer die doppelte Staatsbuergerschaft" (Berlin, no date); Interviews, Ismail Kosan, Member of the Berlin Parliament, Buendnis 90/Die Gruenen Fraction, May 1996; Andreas Schulze, Staff Member, Office of F.O. Wolf, German Member of the European Parliament, Berlin, May 1996.

[35]. AInformationen zum deutschen Staatsbuergerrecht: Doppelstaatsbuergerschaften" (Berlin, no date).

[36]. Checkel 1999b, 102-104, documents the constraining role these norms played in the compliance decisions of many German elite policymakers. My German study thus provides strong confirming evidence for Moravcsik?s rationalist explanation for state compliance with norms of the European human rights regime. Moravcsik 1995.

[37]. On strategic social construction, see Keck and Sikkink 1998, 4-5; and, especially, Finnemore and Sikkink 1998, 910-11. On thin rationalism more generally, see Green and Shapiro 1994, 17-19. Thanks to Frank Schimmelfennig for discussion on these points.

[38]. On the proposed changes, see Koalitionsvertrag 1998, Teil IX; and ?No More Reforms of Citizenship Code for Now,? GermNews, March 16, 1999. For overview and background, see ?Germany: Citizenship, Asylum,? Migration News 5 (December 1998); and ?Der Kampf um die Paesse,? Der Spiegel, January 11, 1999.

[39]. ?Opposition Parties Clash over Citizenship Plans,? Financial Times, January 5, 1999; and, for the Eichel quote, ?Germany: Dual Nationality Change,? Migration News 6 (March 1999). See also ?Kampagne gegen Doppel-Staatsbuergerschaft: FDP laesst die Union allein,? Sueddeutsche Zeitung, January 5/6, 1999.

[40]. Also see the Ukrainian case below. More generally on the linkages between elite turnover and normative change, see Stein 1994, 162-63, passim.

[41]. Freeman 1998, 101-104. Also see Joppke 1998. I thank Andy Moravcsik, Fritz Scharpf and Rey Koslowski for discussion on these points.

[42]. Interviews, Directorate of Human Rights, Council of Europe, April 1997, November 1998. Also see Mendelson 1998. My Ukrainian fieldwork was conducted in two rounds: May 1994; June 1997.

[43]. Markus 1996a, 1996b; and "Ukraine: Founding Father," The Economist, July 6, 1996.

[44]. Interviews, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Kyiv, May 1994; Political Directorate, Council of Europe, April 1997. In April 1998, Tarasyuk was appointed to the post of Foreign Minister.

[45]. Interviews, Petro Chaliy, Head, Citizenship Department, Presidential Administration, Kyiv, June 1997; Valeriy Hrebenyuk, Chief Advisor for International Law and Organizations, Directorate of Foreign Policy, Presidential Administration, Kyiv, June 1997.

[46]. Interviews, as in two preceding notes; and Halyna Freeland, Counsel to the Chairman, Ukrainian Legal Foundation, Kyiv, June 1997. On moral or norm entrepreneurs, see Finnemore 1996; Florini 1996, 375; and Finnemore and Sikkink 1998, 896-901.

[47]. Interview, Nikolay Kulinich, Ukrainian Institute of International Relations, Kyiv, May 1994.

[48]. Interviews, as in notes 44-46.

[49]. In aggregate terms, differing degrees of noviceness also partly account for the variance in my German and Ukrainian results. The former appears as an old and established country when compared to Ukraine; put differently, Germans are more likely to carry cognitive priors that will impede persuasion/learning (H#7).

[50]. For the analysis here and below, see Interviews, Natalie Belitser, Coordinator, Center for Pluralism, Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, Kyiv, June 1997; Halyna Freeland and Natalia Kravets, Counsel to the Chairman and Executive Director, respectively, Ukrainian Legal Foundation, Kyiv, June 1997; Olga Kornienko, Program Coordinator, Ukrainian Center for Human Rights, Kyiv, June 1997; Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Director, Center for Information and Documentation of the Council of Europe in Ukraine, Kyiv, June 1997; and Serhiy Holovatiy, Ukrainian Minister of Justice, Kyiv, June 1997.

[51]. Also see "Human Rights Organization Officially Registered," Kiev UNIAN, August 15, 1994, as reported in FBIS-SOV-94-157, August 15, 1994, which documents the prolonged efforts of one human rights NGO simply to gain recognition from the Ukrainian state.

[52]. Chrystia Freeland, ?Ukraine Justice Minister Sacked,? Financial Times, August 22, 1997. My analysis here intersects with that of Cliff Bob, who has also argued for more attention to the strategic incentives of domestic NGOs as an important supplement to the more standard constructivist account, where transnational networks reach down and select certain national NGOs as partners. Bob 1998.

[53]. Risse, Ropp, Sikkink 1999, for example. See Moravcsik 1995 for the rational-choice argument.

[54]. Similar incentives were at work in the late Soviet era and explain why Gorbachev and his allies failed to take steps to prevent what came to pass once he left office: the rapid demise of his liberal foreign policy. See Checkel 1999c for details.

[55]. The logic here is similar to what two-level game theorists call ?involuntary defection,? where the structure of domestic interests makes it rational for a state agent to defect from an agreement he/she prefers; in my case, it is the structure of domestic institutions that leads to such an unwanted outcome. On the two-level game logic, see Evans, Jacobson, Putnam 1993, 440-42; on the institutional logic, see Cortell and Peterson 1999, chapter 1. My comments on more recent developments in Ukraine draw upon numerous interviews. See Note 50 above; as well as Interviews, Council of Europe Secretariat, April 1997, November 1998.

[56]. On Ukraine and the death penalty, see Interviews, Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Director, Center for Information and Documentation of the Council of Europe in Ukraine, Kyiv, June 1997; Council of Europe Secretariat, April 1997; as well as ?Keine Gnade fuer Moerder: Der Europarat protestiert, doch die Ukraine exekutiert,? Sueddeutsche Zeitung, June 21/22, 1998.

[57]. The quoted words are employed regularly by CE officials. See, Interviews, Council of Europe Secretariat, April 1997, November 1998.

[58]. On the following, see Interviews: Andrew Drzemczewski, Head, and Markus Jaeger, Deputy Head, Secretary General?s Monitoring Unit, Council of Europe Secretariat, April 1997, November 1998. Also see Council of Europe 1997; and, especially, Idem 1998.

[59]. Council of Europe 1998, 10, 11, 19-21 -- quotes at pp.20-21. Also see Interviews, as in previous note.

[60]. For a superb discussion of how most work on regime compliance and international institutions systematically neglects this social context, see Johnston 1998a. Thanks to Celeste Wallander of Harvard University for spurring me to explore this conditionality/compliance nexus.

[61]. Elsewhere, I elaborate this domestic structures argument in greater detail. Checkel 1999b.

[62]. The domestic structures literature is closely related to historical institutionalism, and the latter is deeply split between a rationalist (Paul Pierson, say) and constructivist branch (Katzenstein). See Checkel 1999d for details.

[63]. Consider again my German and Ukrainian studies, with the latter broadly a case of compliance and the former an instance of non-compliance. I attributed these outcomes to differing degrees of agent noviceness and domestic institutional insulation; however, power differentials likely played a role as well. Ukraine is a weak supplicant seeking to join Europe, while Germany is the dominant politico-economic power on that continent. Methodologically, this suggests a way to sharpen my propositions: Extend the analysis to a case where one has novice agents who come from stronger, more powerful states -- say, China or Russia. Thanks to Mike Barnett and Iain Johnston for discussions on these points.

[64]. See Moravcsik 1995; and Checkel 1997b, respectively.

[65]. See Risse 1998; Underdal 1998; the essays by Katzenstein/Keohane/Krasner, Finnemore/Sikkink, Kahler and March/Olsen, all in International Organization 52 (Autumn 1998); and Laitin 1998, respectively.


[Date of publication in the ARENA Working Paper series: 15.3.1999]