How ideas spread: whose norms matter? Norm localization and institutional change in Asian regionalism

TitleHow ideas spread: whose norms matter? Norm localization and institutional change in Asian regionalism
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsAcharya, A
JournalInternational Organization

Main Argument: In this article, I seek to contribute to the literature in two ways: first, by proposing a framework for investigating norm diffusion that stresses the agency role of norm-takers through a dynamic congruence-building process called localization, and then by using this framework to study how transnational norms have shaped regional institutions in Southeast Asia and the role of Asian regional institutions and processes—specifically the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—in transnational norm diffusion.

Localization: Instead of just assessing the existential fit between domestic and outside identity norms and institutions, and explaining strictly dichotomous outcomes of acceptance or rejection, localization describes a complex process and outcome by which norm-takers build congruence between transnational norms (including norms previously institutionalized in a region) and local beliefs and practices. In this process, foreign norms, which may not initially cohere with the latter, are incorporated into local norms. The success of norm diffusion strategies and processes depend on the extent to which they provide opportunities for localization. (241)

“Framing” and “grafting”
Factors favoring localization:
Norm-takers believe that outside norms could be used to enhance legitimacy and authority of their extant institutions and practices without fundamentally altering their existing social identity
Strength of prior local norms
Availability of credible local actors (“insider proponents”) with sufficient discursive influence to match or outperform outside norm entrepreneurs operating at the global level. (248)