Book review: Norm Contestation: Insights into Non-conformity with Armed Conflict Norms, Betcy Jose, Electronic edition

Date01 July 2020
Published date01 July 2020
Book Review
Norm Contestation: Insights into Non-conformity with Armed Conflict Norms, Betcy Jose, Electronic
edition, Springer, Switzerland, 2018–2019. pp. 112 (Paperback), `4,116.00/$ 54.55 (Kindle Edition).
It has been said that the path of the norm is the path of least resistance. One follows the righteous path
carved by society, and oftentimes the law almost unconsciously, as though it is second nature. However,
just as the subjects might rebel against a ruling monarch so can a norm be contested. The book titled
Norms Contestation: Insights into Non-conformity with Armed Conict Norms (the ‘book’) is part of the
Springer Briefs series in political science. Spanning across 117 pages, the book is compact and concise.
As the title suggests, the book is a collection of case studies dealing with the development and contestation
of two of the most important norms in international humanitarian law (IHL)—civilian immunity and
non-intervention. With a total of ve chapters beginning and ending traditionally with an introduction
and a conclusion, respectively, the book describes the theoretical framework of norm contestation, con-
testation in the civilian immunity norm and nally contestation in the non-intervention norm. These case
studies primarily revolve around belligerent actions against civilians and its relation to the norm-enforcer,
The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Russian intervention in Crimea,
The book attempts to piece together a multitude of theories such as intersubjective agreement, norm
ambiguity, diffusion, use of the logic of appropriateness, contestedness and practicality etc. to explain its
central hypothesis—derogation from norms might not be arising so much from material motivations as
from differing understandings of the parameters and prescriptions of the norm. The author has involved
diverse respondents to widen the scope of the study and better understand the shortcomings, if any. How
well these theories hold together for a student-reader will be analysed in the subsequent sections.
At the outset, it is easy to pinpoint the book’s raison d’être. The book plays around with the idea
of how normative behaviour might be shaped by its contestation in changing time and varying circum-
stances. To be precise, the book concerns itself with the dynamism of norm contestation in the times of
humanitarian crises’ like armed conflict. It cleverly picks two norms of extreme import in armed conflict;
the civilian immunity norm which regulates the conduct of warfare and the non-intervention norm which
prescribes in which circumstances war may be waged.
An idea which is repeated over and over throughout the book is how, irrespective of the norm user,
any contestation of a norm springs more from the inability of the user to reach a common understanding
of the limitations of the norm with the norm enforcer rather than a deliberate intention to derogate from
the norm. Put simply, a belligerent may deny any material agendas and attempt to justify his contrary
actions if his understanding of a norm’s definition sufficiently protects that act under the norm.
The author, Betcy Jose is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science in the University
of Colorado Denver, Colorado. Her educational qualifications include a BA in history and psychology
from the University of Texas, a JD in law from the University of Huston and a PhD in public and
Asian Journal of Legal Education
7(2) 231–233, 2020
© 2020 The West Bengal National
University of Juridical Sciences
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/2322005820929206

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