How do international norms evolve? This book examines the manner in which sovereignty, a bedrock norm of international relations since the seventeenth century, has evolved in response to changing conceptions of the responsibilities of government. Whereas most previous studies of international norms have examined how norms influence policy decisions, this book asks, instead, how state policies actively shape international norms. Changing Norms through Actions contends that the concept of sovereignty is moving towards one in which states that are unable or unwilling to fulfill their domestic and international obligations are forced to relinquish certain sovereign responsibilities to the international community. As issues such as genocide, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism have forced states to reassess their understandings of sovereignty, Ramos is interested in how understandings of norms - particularly long-held norms such as absolute sovereignty - change. If action taken by states reinforces an existing norm or alters current understandings of the norm, states must consider how their actions may change the "rules of the game" for the future.
Even when a major power acts primarily out of its own self-interest, without any concern to international norms, the action may have the unintended consequence of modifying the normative environment within which other minor powers act. Shifting understandings of sovereignty (and how states relate to one another) can also have profound implications for the workings of the international system. Ramos looks specifically at what happens to sovereignty when states choose to bypass traditional norms of non-intervention on behalf of other competing norms, such as those regarding counterterrorism, human rights, or weapons of mass destruction.