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POLSCI 2I03 (101)

Session7 Political Sci 2I03 Summer 2013

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Political Science
Mark Busser

Social Construction Meta-Theory: Thinking about knowledge Ontology has to do with what exists in the world, what matters or what „is the case‟ Epistemology has to do with how we know what we know, and how sure we can be  Explains how we can be sure and how we know at the end of the day we think our claims about science and truth can be found and how we would explain those reasons  If the state exists and it exists in a certain sense, how do we know that anarchy could never be escaped o Realism – Anarchy is the way it is. It will always be because of the logic of the way the world works o Critical approaches – Asks realists, how are you so certain and how do you know? Challenges in oncological claims, with epistemology. o Realists – Human nature, classical realism‟s ontological claim o Neo-realists and said that although we agree with your conclusions, you cannot prove human nature. Can‟t prove the ontological claim, can‟t prove what human nature is really like. Focus on role of the state system and importance of anarchy. A central concern of contemporary social theory is asking: Are our fact-claims about the world justified? Natural world Vs. Social World Varieties of fact – distinction between natural versus social worlds Brute Fact Social Fact A fact that is objectively true no matter what A fact that is „true‟ because people‟s combined people think or argue about it, because its thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and factuality is „out there‟ completely separable performances help to make it keep being true from us „intersubjectively‟ Social facts are true because they use people‟s combined ideas to make them true. Epistemic Community  An epistemic community is a network of „experts‟ who share approaches to „knowledge production‟ including ideas about things like cause and effect, best practices, the important problems worth addressing, what is normatively good and bad, and how we can be sure about what we believe is true. Intersubjectivity  A concept that helps to mediate the „objectivity‟ VS „subjectivity‟ debate by suggesting that many social facts are taken to be true by social communities who share beliefs that, in effect, seems objectively „true‟, for them, in their social context.  Human rights don‟t exist and believing them is like believing in witches and unicorns Key Terms  Something is „contingent‟ if it is dependent on certain factors: in the context of social theory, calling something „contingent‟ often means that something doesn‟t necessarily have to be the way it is, and could be otherwise  One thing „constitutes‟ another thing if it helps to make it what it is  When we argue that things are contingent, their contingency depends on someone making the case. o Making it „up‟ o The 50 states of the US constitutes, the United States America o Different cells in a body make up the entire body o Different attitudes of people constitute something o We work together to make time and chronology and the division of hours and minutes into something that is real o Practices and ideas work together to constitute truths and facts Discussion: where are we going with this?  Consider for a moment these new terms: o Ontological claims – assertion about what exists o Epistemological claims – assertions about how we can know o Epistemic community – Network of experts sharing ideas o Intersubjective – being considered „true‟ or „factual‟ by a group o Contingency – Being not inevitable; dependent on certain factors o To constitute – To contribute to making something what it is o Brute facts – facts that are „objectively‟ true or „out there‟ o Social facts – facts that are intersubjectively true  How do you think these apply to IR or IR theory? o Anarchy might be Intersubjective, it‟s true but it‟s not true in its permanent sense Social Construction  Could it be true that many of the main facts, units and processes central to the ontology of traditional international relations are socially constructed?  State, egoism, sovereignty, interests, human rights, anarchy, nation, balance of power, justice, existential threats, statesmanship, justice, superiority. The Berlin Wall Falls (1989) Decline of the Soviet Union Structure & Agency  Agents are the actors who make choices and take action to have an effect on their social world (IE they exercise „agency‟), often by engaging in resistance  Structures are the lasting social arrangements that provide the context in which agents act, and which place limitations on the choices available to them o Human beings make their own history but not under their conditions o In struggle to make differences will have limitations Alexander Wendt – Wendt’s Constructivism  Anarchy is what states make of it (1992)  Social theory of International Politics (1999)  “There is no logic of anarchy apart from the practices that create and instantiate one structure of identities and interests rather than another” (1992)  Even though these structures are out there and post limits, those structures are contingent and depend on practices  Self-help and power politics are institutions and not essential features of anarchy! Anarchy is what states make of it  How states behave is not determined by how realists say, distribution of power, this is not what explains things, but how particular states view and approach and deal with anarchy. It is their responses to anarchy and how they respond to it.  Wendtian constructivism is often seen as an attempt to build a constructivist “Grand Theory” of IR  Shares with the neo/neo approaches a „systemist‟ and „statist‟ approach to global politics  Focuses on how state identities and interests can change as a result of interactions within the international system of nation states  The other theories tended to view interests and identities as pre-given, static, and exogenous to the system (I.E we don‟t need to care how the billiard ball gets created, what we need to know is what to do with it once its on the table)  Don‟t look for explanations and solutions as to why states, are the way they are. Don‟t look for it in Global Politics, look for it in domestic politics.  We should look precisely at global politics to see how states are?  International relations should help explain why interests shift and identities change. Rational choice directs us to ask some questions and not others, treating the identities and interests of agents as exogenously given, and focusing on how the behavior of agents generates outcomes  Neo-realism (Billiard Model)  Neo-Liberalism (Cobweb)  Problem with these theories is that treats identities as exogenously.  As different actors move across the cobweb that these ideas will shift  Suggestion  To think in terms of a FEEDBACK LOOP. o When states show up to play in the game of International Politics, might start off with certain ideas, but once confronted with ANARCHY and other STATES, might start to rethink about their ideas  FEEDBACK LOOP  Something that evolves through cycles of action and re-action  States as shifting and constantly adjusting to new stimuli and responses SUMMARY  Constructivism focuses on the ways in which many of the actors, „facts‟ and processes in global politics are not objectively given but are contingent upon social relations  The Wendtian type of constructivism proposes a complex „high theory‟ of IR that trades parsimony for detail  Constructivism focuses on the ways in which interests and identities can change as a result of social interactions between states within the international system FROM BOOK – Chapter 9 Constructivism –  A common concern with how ideas define the international structure; how this structure shapes the identities, interests, and foreign policies of states; and how state and non-state actors reproduce that structure and at times transform it. o TWO features of Constructivism 1. The convergence by states around similar ways for organizing their domestic and international life 2. How norms becom
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