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Why Comply? Social Learning and European Identity Change

  • Jeffrey T. Checkel


Why do agents comply with the norms embedded in regimes and international institutions? Scholars have proposed two competing answers to this compliance puzzle, one rationalist, the other constructivist. Rationalists emphasize coercion, cost/benefit calculations, and material incentives; constructivists stress social learning, socialization, and social norms. Both schools, however, explain important aspects of compliance. To build a bridge between them, I examine the role of argumentative persuasion and social learning. This makes explicit the theory of social choice and interaction implicit in many constructivist compliance studies, and it broadens rationalist arguments about the instrumental and noninstrumental processes through which actors comply. I argue that domestic politics—in particular, institutional and historical contexts—delimit the causal role of persuasion/social learning, thus helping both rationalists and constructivists to refine the scope of their compliance claims. To assess the plausibility of these arguments, I examine why states comply with new citizenship/membership norms promoted by European regional organizations.



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