Radicalisation within the Normative Nuclear Order: How Contestation and Resistance to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Led to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The global nuclear order and its core element, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), are in a state of crisis. The 2017 negotiation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in particular has severely shaken the established nuclear order. The new treaty has shed light on the rifts within the international nuclear architecture, notably the growing division between nuclear ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-Nots’. Thus, it comes by no surprise that sentiment towards the treaty is divided: while supporters perceive it as an exceptional innovation that advances disarmament, opponents see it as a threat to the existing nuclear order. Both sides, however, converge in their diagnosis regarding the origins of the nuclear order’s rifts that were revealed by the TPNW: they are mostly construed as direct result of insufficient disarmament steps, as natural consequence of the hierarchical structure of the NPT, or as purposeful and targeted acts of norm-entrepreneurship. That said, many approaches overlook the multiplicity and interplay of influencing factors that are constitutive for the contestation of and resistance to the NPT.

This dissertation project takes a closer look at the contestation and resistance processes that triggered and nurtured the emergence of the TPNW and have accompanied developments within and around the NPT ever since. For this purpose, the dissertation draws on research on norm contestation, resistance and radicalisation to better understand the actual processes of contestation that led to the TPNW. By (process) tracing how states' positionings on the TPNW have evolved, the dissertation aims to illustrate how contestation and resistance within the NPT served as a source and amplifier of radicalisation processes especially reflected in the polarisation of the nuclear order as we are currently witnessing. For underlying the disputes around the NPT and TPNW are not only procedural or technical issues, e.g. how to pursue nuclear disarmament. Rather, the negotiation of the TPNW also concerned the interpretation of the fundamental norms that undergird the normative nuclear order and the power relations that are reproduced and legitimised by the NPT. Through this perspective, the dissertation illuminates the complex nature of contestation and resistance within the NPT, which is not limited to either proponents or opponents of the nuclear ban.