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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Jean- Yves Haine

ESSAY QUESTION POSTED ON BLACKBOARD TOMORROW ; 1 OF 2 CHOICES, NO OUTSIDE RESEARCH NEEDED, 5 PAGES MAX. DOUBLE SPACE, CONSTRUCTIONISM - Essence of constructionism is about human consciousness in international life, focus on ideas, norms, knowledge, culture, stresses these elements in the making of international politics - Emphasizes rule of collective understanding, considers that human interaction is shaped primary by ideas and not simply by material factors - These ideas are shared among us, and these shared beliefs construct the interests and identities of actors, focuses on something called “social facts” - Social facts; exists because people collectively believe they exists; e.g. money  not just paper, social fact is that it is $20, figurtary instrument (all trust that this piece of paper is worth something and so does people around you) - Constructionism is about social construction of reality, about the transformation of international politics through social facts  key take for constructionism for international politics - Origin of theory; became major mainstream in 80s and 90s, o one school of international relations that went before 80s and 90s that was similar to constructionism but called “british school of international affairs” : amongst states that is something like an international society, something like a society of states linked by diplomatic relations, common knowledge, practices, underlined these common understandings among states o started at 80s-90s because theorists of the british school international affairs failed to see the cold war ending o realists regard international politics in the same manner, always about anarchy, survival, security, self help…could only forsee end of soviet union was through world war three; war between us and soviet union, idea of peaceful change was not in vocab of realists o constructivism, started to develop on that very fate, sees the world as a project under construction, as something that is in the process of becoming, rather than being, tries to understand transformation, changes, and in order to achieve that, try to better understand the process of interaction o looking at 1989, there are many ways of looking at extraordinary event, some will look at capabilities of US and Soviet Union…basically soviet union cannot cope with massive military budget to sustain conflict with us realist view o constructionist would say that realists are missing most of the process, missing the ideas that were export from west to east, soviet’s ideas came from the west, ideas were key to explaining the end of cold war, not only about missiles, tanks, and military budgets; new understanding of reality in soviet union, end of cold war matter of changing ideas and how these ideas came into reality among soviet union o constructionis wil underline ideas behind transformation, not material capabilities among the super powers o same can be said about transformation about eastern Europe, realists will always underline respective capabilities of east and west germany, but missing the links of ideas between the two; in east germany they were able to look @ west germany ideas through tv, ideas were exported to east german, and fundamental aspect of change related to flow of ideas….realists were unable to explain meaningfully the end of the cold war o other theories were unable to explain end of cold war, led to rise of conscutrionism - focus on social construction of reality, questions what is usually taken for granted - they have another look at key traditional concepts of international relations - construtivist approach stress the facts that actors are produced and created by their cultural environment, by their history, and the history of past interactions, the behaviour of the state is more a matter of nurture than nature, the identity of the actor will shape its interests o being French, American, or Chinese is important to constructionist, an identity involves the history and the culture of that specific that country, explains largely how an actor will define its own interests, look at that kind of interaction how because of its identity an actor will look at its interest and how they will frame them, role of identities is crucial for constructivism (realists don’t look at this aspect at all, always about state a, b, or c, doesn’t matter what your country is, only thing that matter is the power behind actor, role of culture and history not significant), cannot ignore identity of actor because that identity shape its interests o sovereignty, it is socially constructed, not a given, socially constructed among states, it is the product of understanding of self-agreements among states regarding the concept of sovereignty, the actual meaning of sovereignty depends on collective agreement about it…if you look at the legal definition of sovereignty there is 1 a fourth dimension which is recognition to be able to exist, need to be recognized by other states…need a collevtive agreement about your own exisitence…therefore socially constructed, will depend on collective agreement of what is it and not. Start of 20 century sovereignty was perceived as something that was absolute, devote these days to responsibility to protect on UN level, what you are doing in your own state is a matter of concern for international community and if you don’t behave in a proper way, the international community may indeed intervene and concept of sovereignty was not as absolute as it was before, idea of responsibility to protect is new but clearly a crucial change compared to 50 years ago, especially at the peak of cold war, what the soviet union was doing in Poland was a matter for soviet union, these days when a dictator behave badly (massive murder, unable to protect population) the international community has grounds to intervene…sovereignty idea has clearly changed, about sovereignty as a collective agreement as an understanding among actors, states, content of sovereignty can be modified, about negotiations, not about nature and absolute factors, about collective agreements/disagreements, highly relative concept, socially constructed (e.g. EU members) o action and motivation; constructionist will have slighty different p.o.v. about action in world politics, underline different logic behind the action, precisely they stress collective international/understanding, constructionist will underline another logic of action,  traditional approach will underline action in terms of logic of consequences (you have an objective, several options are possible, all options have costs and benefits, you have to choose among these options the one that you think is best to achieve objective)  constructionist will underline another logic, which is logic of appropriateness (look at an action and was is the most efficient action? Or was it the most adequate, proper, decent thing to do?) by asking that question they underline another part of motivation, e.g. climate change, Japan and whaling….linked to collective understanding of what is appropriate or not, whaling was considered a normal practice 40 years ago but emerging collective consensus that some species of whales need to be protected so the behaviour of Japan was regarded by a lot of countries as inappropriate, so that’s another logic, that is the constructionist take on motivation behind logic….linked to collective understanding of what is appropriate, and the consensus is changing all the time, dynamic, constructionist are at a better place to udnerstnaind changes…. consensus on climate change has been changing, o anarchy, if sovereigny is socially constructed then so is anarachy  for realists and esp. neo-realists, anarchy is a given, not so for constructionist  for constructivist, anarchy is what states make of it, just part of a process, not a top-down hierarchy, states collectively may have a different understanding among themselves about what anarchy is all about, and because they have this understanding collectivity, they can change the understanding of anarchy…a dynamic process, not a given once and for all, collective understanding of state can change the idea of anarchy, the point is not the matter of structure of anarchy, but about relationships about among states, the understanding among states that will change/modify the concept of anarchy  Alexander underlines truly different meaning of anarchy,  1) is the classic opinion of anarchy;collective understanding b/t states is minimal/non-existent, second meaning of anarchy; Lockian anarchy, based on different roles b/t states where states consider themselves as rivals/competitors but not as enemies, the collective understanding in this existence is where you have companionship, but not where you have enemies all the time, third meaning is the tension, based on friendship, we understand each other as friend, as because of that anarchy among states disappears, although the states are different, it’s a different process than the realist view, realists will always say that anarchy is always there, you can pretend that here and now you can be friends, but tomorrow morning it can be an uncertainty, the logic of anarchy is always imposed upon you, but constructivist say identity of friendship is able to change the idea of anarchy, because it is our identity as friends will shape our interests regarding each other, so Canada and US are friends, and socially constructed among themselves a completely different kind of anarchy) if tomorrow there is a common enemy between US and Canada, they will address that problem as one, their identities will be so similar that there interests will be similar regarding that third country, o Institutions; constructivists have a different meaning than realists/liberal understanding  For realists they are temporary, because mistrusts is part of the relationship because anarchy will push you to be hesitant for long-term cooperation 2  For liberalists; they may last longer because they help members in terms of information and collectively address problems, win-win situation  For constructivists they are more important, they will overtime shape identity of an actor and their interests,  e.g. NATO,  for realists NATO was just a temporary marriage of convenience in order to address threat of soviet union, they have repeatedly said once the threat is gone, NATO will disappear because there is no need for an alliance if you don’t have an enemy,  for liberals even though the threat has ended, NATO has provided crucial information for members, still crucial to act more efficiently in collective manner, the practice of changes of diplomacy, collective planning, all these planning has offered and added value whether there are enemies or not, the practice inside the institutions has been more efficient and help the states to act,  for constructivism will say that framework of NATO in fact redefines the identity of these state members and themselves, it is a framework whereby friendship is the key characteristics among themselves whether you have an enemy or not, the very membership in the alliance will overtime change your identity, what NATO is able to do is to reshape through the changing identity of the state your interests, will underline the fact that NATO is something like a circle of western democracy, NATO is beyond the mere institution, it’s a circle where democratic values are valued, where specific human rights standards are practices, western family of democracy, overtime it has changed the very identity of its members e.g., relations between turkey and Greece are not exactly kind and friendly, these two have been at war among themselves regarding sovereignty, yet both of them are members of NATO, realists will say that is the classic example of two countries together only to deal with soviet threat, liberals will say that it is more complicated because change of military target offer change of friendship for both countries, constructivists will say because they are part of NATO this membership has actual
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