Norm Osmosis

Could norms be moving around the world through osmosis?

Could norms be moving around the world through osmosis? In this article, Altinay argues that hard power and soft power are not sufficient in explaining several key cases of norm transformation. He identifies manifestations of norm osmosis across diverse tracks such as our norms concerning wealth creation, capital punishment, citizens' access to official documents, and fiscal prudence. Such a dynamic may be difficult to prove conclusively. However, if it is real and significant, this would mean that ours is a significant learning community, where latent definitions of good life are being perceived, contested, internalized and reproduced everyday by billions. Altinay argues that this process will intensify as power disparities subside.

Policy Implications

• Global norms are quasi global public goods. They represent shared definitions of what is feasible and what is ideal, and as such they provide a critical and enabling backdrop to our growing interdependence. Norm formation deserves more attention.

• Hard power and soft power are not the only mechanisms through which interactions regarding norms take place. There is evidence that more ubiquitous and diffuse learning is taking place, and often below the radar of the policy makers.

• Taking the deliberative processes and faculties of other societies seriously is one important way we can better understand and assist this benign process. Not poisoning the international environment with hubris would be another way.