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Lecture 4

IR Week 4- Constructivism

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Political Science
Jean Yves Haine

15/10/2013 Constructivism 1. Constructivist approach to key aspects 2. Origins 3. Language 4. Issues with Constructivism 1. Constructivist Approach Putting human consciousness at the centre of IR. Central role of collectively and understandings of human life. Human interaction is shaped primarily by ideas, ideational factors- not simply by material. Our identities construct social norms. Social Facts- realists look at things as very black-and-white, the constructivists insert collective understandings about things- money as a fiduciary instrument- social facts and values, sheer materiality doesn’t tell us the social reality about it- which is the most meaningful part. 2. Origins Critical theory in social sciences in 50’s. IR: the end of the cold war; emerged in the early 90;s- the classic IR approach failed to explain the end of the CW. The realist has an understanding of what anarchy is all about. Structure of anarchy; changes in behaviour are a product of the units involved; not anarchy itself. Based on ideas, identity. Not about German power or absence of Soviet constraint- more about German understanding of power. Constructivist can more easily understand evolution; what is becoming a reality. Can understand norms. Focus on rise and fall of collective understanding. Nuclear Weapons- constructivist will look at the collectively held understanding about nuclear weapons; accepted by some, refused by others- collectively held understanding: China can’t have them, France can 3. Key Concept The actors- start with domestic life of the state, not the state itself. The identity of an actor will define its interaction. They act the way they do because they are French- the product of a particular issue. Frame issues in a French way- immigration in different countries, for instance- the German and French
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