This article explores norms as idealizations, in an attempt to grasp their significance as projects for international organizations. We can think about norms as ‘standards of proper behaviour’. In this sense they are somehow natural, things to be taken for granted, noticed only really when they are absent. We can also think about norms as ‘understandings about what is good and appropriate’. In this sense, norms embody a stronger sense of virtue and an ability to enable progress or improvement. Norms become ideal when they are able to conflate what is good with what is appropriate, standard, or proper. It is when the good becomes ‘natural’ that a norm appears immanent and non-contestable, and so acquires an idealized form.45 Along with the other articles in this special issue, I will attempt to challenge some of the complacency surrounding the apparent naturalness and universality of norms employed in international relations.
- object-relations theory; World Bank; Good Governance; Africa; norms; Melanie Klein