Normative contestation in the UNSC: (de)legitimising discourse
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This study seeks to re-emphasise the importance of legitimacy when analysing normative contestation. Using empirical analysis, the discourse of the five permanent members of the UNSC is explored, revealing the legitimation practices used by actors to influence the collective legitimacy judgements of others and thus shape the normative conversation. Such rhetorical practices, adopted by each member of the P5, are used to both legitimise an actor’s own approach, whilst delegitimising the approach of others that do not share their interests. Actors adopt narratives which drive their own interests into the conversation; they are justified using references to authority, morals, history and their self-professed expertise. UNSC activity is shaped by this rhetoric, which, as a result of the power imbalance inside the UNSC, is primarily western. The western powers advocate for a humanitarian approach by utilising practices which evoke emotions and encourage the audience to adopt their morals. In response, those actors seeking to protect the former status quo rely on references to law and order, striving to ensure their interests remain relevant. The confidence shown by those seeking to reshape the international system is a reflection of their confidence as international players. The analysis demonstrates the importance of rhetorical analysis when studying normative contestation. Without paying attention to the legitimation practices used by actors to influence others, one is unable to understand how the normative conversation is shaped.
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