Social norms, defined as shared expectations about appropriate behavior, are ubiquitous in world politics.  Yet they are so closely linked to interests, and so frequently conflict with one another, that their causal impact is often ambiguous.  In world politics, norms need advocates, as the weakness of customary international law suggests, but it is difficult to disentangle the effects of advocacy and interests from those of the norms themselves.  Analysis of issues on which norms seem to be important points to the role of active agents, promoting norms.  The weakness of customary international law, which lacks clear agency, reinforces the conclusion that the significance of social norms in world politics depends on strategic agents whose interests, whether shaped by norms or not, impel them toward promoting the norms. 

Professor Robert O. Keohane is the author of After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (1984) and Power and Governance in a Partially Globalized World (2002). He is co-author (with Joseph S. Nye, Jr.) of Power and Interdependence (third edition 2001), and (with Gary King and Sidney Verba) of Designing Social Inquiry (1994). Keohane has served as the editor of the journal International Organization and as president of the International Studies Association and the American Political Science Association. He won the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, 1989, and the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science, 2005. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences. Keohane has received honorary degrees from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, and Science Po in Paris, and is the Harold Lasswell Fellow (2007-08) of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

“The Saltzman Institute is pleased to honor one of the most famous scholars produced by Columbia and one of the most eminent international relations theorists of the past century by establishing the annual Kenneth N. Waltz Lecture in International Relations.”
Richard K. Betts, Director
September 2008