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POL208Y1 (477)


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University of Toronto St. George
Political Science
Lilach Gilady

POL208: SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVISM MAKING AND THE REMAKING THE WORLD FOR IR: Hadear Shaheen - realism, idealism, constructivsm: theoretical approaches to world politics - theories that hope to explain the nature of the world itself and the actors within it - world politics has seen a great shift from European politics to world politics - world politics is being transformed by the forces of globalization - all theories contain ideas about the nature of actors in world politics, the nature of the context that surrounds them, nature of interactions between actors REALISM IN A NUTSHELL: - anarchic - zero sum, relative gains - power is central - state is the main level of analysis - security is main concern - actors behave competitively - concerned with maximizing power NEO-LIBERALISM IN A NUTSHELL: - Importance to actors rather than states - Less pessimistic about the effects of anarchy - The system is regulated by non- state actors such as intergovernmental organizations - Interdependence among states lessens the likelihood for conflict - Mutual interests exist- it is not a zero sum game - Concerned with maximizing economic gains - In liberal’s eyes, the EU would be seen as a tool to facilitate cooperation between states, mitigate the collective action problem, enforce rules, fight against free riding etc PARALLELS BETWEEN REALISTS AND NEO-LIBERALS: - State of the system is anarchic - Interests and identities of actors are not malleable- they are generally fixed in nature, their interests remain the same- it does not rely on context - A great problem in these theories arise in the fact that they believe state behavior is static and unchanging--- the nature of anarchy is also static Social Constructivism: • The main theoretical challenger to leading theories in international relations • Alternative to dominant paradigms that challenges their perspectives on the nature of the international system • Ideas, identities, norms • There are weaknesses in realist and liberal mainstream approaches to IR • Liberal and mainstream approaches cannot explain significant changes that have unraveled on the world stage in the past century • 3 events to keep in mind: The formation of the EU, the end of the apartheid system and the ban on chemical weapons • objective: just to create an outline for social constructivism • cycle: actors create their own contexts and the contexts shape agents • material powers are not irrelevant • all ideas are not equally as significant • it is the interplay between ideas and material power • ex) the outlawing of the use of chemical weapons- it was an idea that was created by the world’s Great Powers- they had, and continue to have the power to ensure that no other country uses tehm pg 29 • however, the power of states like the US does not determines how they will act- even the most powerful of states are shaped by their contexts • interaction of material power and the power of ideas that explains phenomena in world politics pg 29 Key tenants of Social Constructivism: • the power of ideas • the interplay between actors and their social context • social norms • how the world shapes actors, their desires, goals and actions • the interdependent relationship between actors and their social context • 4 crucial aspects of social constructivism: the permissiveness of anarchy, the role of norms, the role of identity, the role of power • social context = norms • actors are influenced by their environments THE EUROPEAN UNION: • a great shift from the 20 century that was defined by European rivalries and wars on unspeakable levels to 21 century European politics of peace and cooperation • rivalry & war  peace and cooperation • the EU now demonstrates supranational characteristics—it is not just about individuals states and players • they operate as a unit—one standard currency, a European parliament etc. • Liberalism: would argue that the EU is here to stay—there are great economic benefits • Realism: it is ineviatable that the EU will crumble, at the core of this union is states, self interested states who are competitive by nature who make the existence of a union of countries difficult APARATHEID: • Neither liberalism nor realism can explain the denunciation of this racist policy • There were economic benefits to supporting apartheid • Also, there were benefits of supporting apartheid during the era of the cold war • Racial segregation present in US till 1960’s • US supported white populations in SA until 1980s • The international community took a stand in 1994 and delegitimized this practice CHEMICAL WEAPONS: • WWI- chemical weapons deployed- mustard bombs and chlorine gas • WWII- nuclear bomb • Now the production, use, proliferation of chemical and nuclear weapons is fronwed upon and virtually unthinkable pg 19 • Chemical weapons have great utility in war • They are now viewed as inhumane • Commonality between realism and liberalism- they both agree that the state is anarchic SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVISM: • They agree with liberals in the sense that they believe that there exist a wide range of actors in world politics • Interests and identities of actors are malleable- they are shaped by context, environment and times and are subject to change • Main concern is not the maximization of power or economic gains • At times states will have a tendency to be security crazed and power hungry but that is only because their environment, history, surroundings have socialized them to act that way • States interests can change • History matters • It is impossible to describe the nature of actors independently from a particular historical context • There is no inherent logic of suspicion/ competition • It’s not about the material characteristics, it is about the social character of international life • Not about the distribution of power, guns, money • What make’s a social context: notions of right and wrong, feasible infeasible, possible in possible pg 21 • Ideas and meanings that shape the social environment can change over time • It’s a cyclical idea- actors shape their own social context and the social context in turn shapes the actors ( interests, identities, behaviours) SOVEREIGNTY: • it is a generally understood rule that state sovereignty is inviolate • the only reason this rule stands is because so many countries respect it • sovereignty and the concept of sovereignty shape what states want ( protection of borders) • they shape how states behave: immigration policies, diplomatic protocol all in the name of sovereignty • the power and existence of rules depends on actors acting and interacting in accordance with them pg. 21 • actors createtheir own common understandings- their social context- through their actions and int
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