Autonomous weapons systems (AWS) are emerging as key technologies of future warfare. So far, academic debate concentrates on the legal-ethical implications of AWS but these do not capture how AWS may shape norms through defining diverging standards of appropriateness in practice. In discussing AWS, the article formulates two critiques on constructivist models of norm emergence: first, constructivist approaches privilege the deliberative over the practical emergence of norms; and second, they overemphasise fundamental norms rather than also accounting for procedural norms, which we introduce in this article. Elaborating on these critiques allows us to respond to a significant gap in research: we examine how standards of procedural appropriateness emerging in the development and usage of AWS often contradict fundamental norms and public legitimacy expectations. Normative content may therefore be shaped procedurally, challenging conventional understandings of how norms are constructed and considered as relevant in International Relations. In this, we outline the contours of a research programme on the relationship of norms and AWS, arguing that AWS can have fundamental normative consequences by setting novel standards of appropriate action in international security policy.
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