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Constructivism and Cognitivism.docx

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Department
Political Science
Course Code
POLI 244
Professor
Mahesh Shankar

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THURSDAY, JULY 12, 2012: Constructivism and Cognitivism Constructivism (more established and known than cognitivism):  IR is a society that is socially constructed. It is not just a system of units bumping into each other. States are acting according to fundamental rules, norms and expectations, which they develop over time. These certain patterns of behaviour sustain the society.  Those who violate these norms become social outcasts.  Constructivists are interested in the specific roles that states have  The core of constructivism is the argument that the social interaction that the states have shape the state itself (their identity and interests).  Emphasis is placed on agents, not on structure. They criticize realism and liberalism for stress on the system. Constructivists believe the structure does not completely constrain the actors. Wendt points out when the US and the USSR decided they weren’t enemies at the end of the Cold War, an enmity disappeared—the structure changed (this points out the problem of realism, which cannot explain change—Constructivism points out the actors make the system so they can change the system).  Constructivism focuses on the social, not the material. They believe ideas shape material factors. Ex) The concern is not just a country having a bomb, it is based on the actor holding it and your relationship, identities, etc. the fear about Iran having nuclear weapons is not about the weapons itself, it is about how we understand Iran- and this is different for different countries (ex. Syria is probably less worried about Iran have a nuclear weapon than they are about Israel’s weapons).  Identities and interests are intersubjective, and agents who are active in the system construct them. Nothing exists without meaning given to it through our collective understanding. This implies states can change this reality if they want to.  Implications for anarchy: o Anarchy is self-help only because states act as if this were so—anarchy is what states make of it. It is dangerous and conflictual because states make it like this. There are other options if states were to act like that. o There are other kinds of anarchy, when there are other regarding units instead of self-regarding units (if the norm in the international system was to watch over other states), autistic units (unaware of others), or cooperative security (anarchy could be characterized as cooperation among states where everyone associates their own security with the security of others). o Interactions create identities, interests, institutions, which then shape new interactions o States can decide how they want it to be  Identity o Identity is relational (hinges on interactions with others, which shape identity in terms of how others see us and we see ourselves) o Identity is intersubjective o Identities determine interests o Identities determine how states see each other—friend, foe, rogue, alien. Ex) Germany and Japan, England and France, Canada as a peacekeeper. o A state that sees itself as left wing may have an interest in fostering left wing movements elsewhere, and a state that sees itself as rising power may want other things. We react differently to actors we see as o Ex) In 2007, Switzerland accidentally invaded Liechtenstein (soldiers got lost and wandered in). Imagine the difference if South Korean soldier had wandered into North Korea (or Syria into Israel, or India into Pakistan).  Institutions o Constructivists see them as social practices (not necessarily things like the UN or NATO) that are repeated over time and shape state behaviour and identity. Institutions tend to reproduce themselves. It is a much broader conception than the Neo-Liberal view of institutions. o Ex) self-help, sovereignty, diplomacy, “laws of war” are all institutions because they are human social constructs that have developed over time.  Norms o Standards of appropriate behaviour—things like holding elections to get a legitimate hold of power. Ex) Bashar al-Assad held an election when he came into power even though he was the only candidate and it was rigged. This shows countries are increasingly hesitant to violate them. o Proscribed norms—“should not.” These are things like slavery, piracy, and conquest. o Prescribed norms—“should.” Things like universal suffrage, ministries of science. o Realists say that countries do not listen to norms but if they want something, will do it. ex) USA wanted war on Saddam Hussein, so they did it. Constructivists argue it was meaningful that they tried to get the world on their side and tried to get the UN to support it, because it shows they do care about the norms.  Dueling logics o Logic of consequences—realism and liberalism view. They ask, “what will be the impact of my action?,” “what are the costs and benefits to me?” o Logic of appropriateness—constructivism’s view. They believe motivation is guided by what is seen as appropriate behaviour. This limits imagination and some behaviour becomes unthinkable and unimaginable. Ne
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