Implications For The Governance Of Ozone Depletion And Climate Change

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This is a simple model. However, even given its simplicity, it produces complex patterns and demonstrates that stylized norm entrepreneurs can play a role in forging intersubjective agreement and that they contribute to norm evolution as well as emergence. It shows in a general, formal way that norm entrepreneurs can alter the dynamics of a system of interacting agents sometimes catalyzing the emergence and evolution of norms. While not an empirical test of the NLC, the modeling exercises and results do confirm its plausibility, and entail important implications for theory building and empirical investigation.

First, it is useful to know that assumptions at the foundation of my argument actually can produce the outcomes they expect—the metastable pattern of emergence and transformation of a normative structure. The logic of the enhanced NLC is embedded in the model, and that logic produces norms

Table 4.1

Effect of the Reach of the Norm Entrepreneur

Table 4.1

Effect of the Reach of the Norm Entrepreneur


Mean Number



Reach of

of Rounds


Change from


with a Norm









































In all of the simulations run for this sensitivity analysis: a norm is considered to have emerged when 70 percent of the agents are using the same rule, there were ten agents, there were one thousand rounds, norms were suggested every fifty rounds, the noise in the system was 10 percent, and the required precision was 5 percent.45 The means and confidence intervals were calculated from thirty runs that differed only in random number seeds.

In all of the simulations run for this sensitivity analysis: a norm is considered to have emerged when 70 percent of the agents are using the same rule, there were ten agents, there were one thousand rounds, norms were suggested every fifty rounds, the noise in the system was 10 percent, and the required precision was 5 percent.45 The means and confidence intervals were calculated from thirty runs that differed only in random number seeds.

and norm change when norm entrepreneurs provide the catalyzing influence that Finnemore and Sikkink envisioned. In that sense, the plausibility of the book's argument is established (this is akin to an existence proof in rational choice).46 However, what is interesting about the exercises is not that I was able to identify norms, but that the results facilitate identification of the conditions under which norms emerge. The model of the norm life cycle framework produced three potential patterns—stability around a rule, volatility, or metastability. All three have empirical analogues as mentioned in the results section. The crucial question is how and when norm entrepreneurs influence which pattern arises and which pattern fits the empirical puzzle of participation. The modeling exercises suggest that social complexity and norm entrepreneur reach are crucial.

Social Complexity

Many studies of norms highlight the importance of fit in explaining the emergence of particular norms.47 For a new norm to emerge, it is crucial that the content of that norm is compatible with other values/norms in the social system. Content—what a nascent norm actually calls upon agents to do or not do—is certainly an important factor in explaining the emergence of specific norms. For instance, the fit of universal participation with notions of multilateralism and other notions of inclusivity in governance processes is crucial.

The Pick a Number model captures some of the importance of content in that rules that predict numbers close to 50 fit with the structure of the social system. However, the more important insights from the model arise from a focus on context instead of content. The model results suggest that it is necessary to consider how contextual conditions (amount of ambiguity in the system, the number of rules in the system) affect norm emergence and evolution independent of the content of the norms. The model implies that context can play a fundamental role. There are contextual conditions where no norms will arise, regardless of the content of the rules.

The social context that the agents find themselves in is a key determinant of the influence of the entrepreneurs as well as the structural patterns that emerge. When the social context is too complex (noise is high, the rules/population ratio is high)48 the agents cannot find intersubjective agreement, even when helped by the suggestions of a norm entrepreneur, because they cannot discern what the appropriate behavior should be. When the social context is this noisy, we are unlikely to see norms arise across a population regardless of the activities of norm entrepreneurs. In this context, we may not see any international norms emerge. This situation is not relevant for the cases at hand. The observed lock-in around universal participation demonstrates that a social norm did indeed emerge.

When social complexity is low in the model (low noise, low rules/ population ratio) two outcomes are possible. In the absence of norm entrepreneurs, interacting agents are able to find the natural norm with no outside help, and it rapidly diffuses through the entire population. When the social complexity surrounding an issue is relatively low, the natural norm that emerges will face relatively little challenge, and self-reinforcement and reification will ensure that the norm stays stable. This set of conditions does not apply to universal participation either. Certainly, conventional wisdom holds that universal participation is natural for global environmental problems. However, the empirical pattern being investigated is change over time in participation requirements—the international community has not hit on a moral truth or natural participation requirement. Participation is still being actively constructed.

When norm entrepreneurs are present in low complexity environments, lock in is the likely result. Even when a natural norm is available in the system a norm entrepreneur can catalyze stable intersubjective agreement around any number of possible ideas. Again, a number of potential sets of institutional rules may have been better than Bretton Woods. This is suggestive in that it reminds us to consider that current phenomena— political organizations, boundaries, norms, technologies, etc.—are not necessarily the "best," but often result from particular initial conditions and path dependent processes that can be initially shaped by entrepreneurs.49

The lock in seen under these modeling conditions is potentially applicable—the norm entrepreneur makes a suggestion and the international community locks in to the suggestion. In addition, conventional wisdom would again indicate that because of the global scope of the problems, there should be little social complexity around the notion of universal participation. However, the lock-in observed in the model under conditions of low social complexity is an incredibly stable state—the evolution currently under way in universal participation makes it possible that universal participation may lose normative status altogether. In addition, it is important to remember that universal participation arose in a transition from a different norm—North-only participation. The low social complexity conditions do not lead to patterns of changing norms— the lock-in is immediate and permanent.

Both stable and volatile patterns were evident regardless of the existence of a norm entrepreneur in the system. The metastable pattern was also associated with a relatively high level of social complexity—high enough to produce volatile patterns. This is the most interesting and relevant result because when norm entrepreneurs are present at this level of complexity the appropriateness of actions is not set in stone, but neither is it entirely open. The norm entrepreneurs' suggestions have the most interesting influence in this region precisely because the social complexity is such that their suggestions will have an immediate impact on the social context (affect what is thought of as appropriate)—remember that the metastable patterns result from a noise level that is too high to sustain norms without an entrepreneur—but will not freeze the system. It is in this range where agents need the help of a norm entrepreneur to reach intersubjective agreement. Norm entrepreneurs help agents manage high degrees of social complexity.

This set of conditions produces the modeling results most relevant for the study of universal participation in ozone depletion and climate change. First, under these conditions, we see norm emergence and change. This is comparable to the stunning transition between North-only participation and universal participation observed in the ozone depletion negotiations. Second, these results suggest that in considering the second transition we have to bear in mind that the United States may have acted as a norm entrepreneur when it broke away from the Kyoto process—an entrepreneur suggesting that universal participation itself is no longer appropriate.

Thus, according to the model results, norm entrepreneurs are going to have different effects in each of the social complexity regions:

• Low social complexity: very stable, long-lived norms (the natural norm or not).

• High social complexity: no norms, constant cycling, norm entrepreneurs have little effect over the whole population, though they can influence pockets of agents.

• Medium social complexity: a pattern of emerging and dissolving norms—norm entrepreneurs are able to lower complexity enough for the agents to reach intersubjective agreement and thus norms emerge.

Theoretically, this suggests a refinement of the norm life cycle to include conditionality based on the social context. We cannot fully explain norm emergence and evolution without considering contextual conditions. Assuming that norm entrepreneurship is constant (or at least reasonably so), the model suggests how entrepreneurship interacts with the context of a social system to produce norms or not—independent of the content of the norms or characteristics of the norm entrepreneur herself.

This conditionality adds nuance to a powerful constructivist framework and facilitates explaining when entrepreneurs are likely to have which effect, thus extending the framework's reach to explain successful norm entrepreneurship as well as unsuccessful attempts. One criticism of entrepreneur research is that all of the results are positive—little if any variation in the dependent variable. People tend to do entrepreneur research on cases where a norm emerged or where cooperation was achieved. This makes it difficult to sort out whether or not entrepreneurs had an effect. These modeling exercises are thus valuable by pointing out the conditions under which norm entrepreneurs will not have an effect. In addition, because this model makes no normative statement about the content of the norms that arise and get reinforced, this model provides a process for exploring both good and bad norms—something construc-tivists have been criticized for avoiding. The simulations merely model increasing returns to intersubjective agreement and the dynamics evident are independent of whether or not the content of the norm is good or bad.

Empirically, the model results imply the need to focus efforts not just on the content of the norm and the characteristics of the potential norm entrepreneur, but also on the context of the social system of interest. The model suggests that in exploring the emergence and evolution of the universal participation norm it is crucial to consider social complexity and the effect that a norm entrepreneur has upon it. Social complexity is an elementary concept in the model, easy to quantify and calculate. It is merely a random draw from a uniform distribution. Empirically, it is more challenging to assess (this is discussed further in the following chapters). Social complexity will be related to: the number of competing ideas, the range of interpretations agents have of the social context, the power of the entrepreneur, the power of initial proponents that the entrepreneur convinces, and the history of the issue at hand.

Incorporating social complexity may broaden the analysis, but the model suggests that such contextual conditions are important determinants of the outcome of entrepreneurial activity. Explaining the emergence and evolution of universal participation requires taking social complexity into account.

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