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CH 7 Social Constructivism.docx

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Political Science
Political Science 2231E
Jessica Trisko

Social Constructivism Chapter 7 INTRODUCTION  One of the newest “major theories” in IR  Tries to occupy the middle ground in IR  Proponents of this theory accept the influence of both structures and agency and focus on how they influence each other  Attempts to find a practical answer to the post modern challenge to scientific knowledge in order to be able to conduct empirical research  Interested in the impacts of norms, culture and institutions on international politics  Themes: the construction of national interests, spread of human rights, impact of IOs on state identities and the development of difference forms of international society  Constructivism – means these authors do not accept any social features of life as a given o while they acknowledge human beings are always situated in particular contexts which inform their action they also reproduce or construct their world through their actions. o The world we live in is always contextual o Contrasts neo-realism  which argues the basic features of society are universal and have always been that way o Is a social process – it cannot be done alone, must include the engagement of others o It does not imply voluntarism o Individuals are always part of broader settings in which they can shape – but only within specific context  Social – clarifies a contrast to the focus on language in postmodernism o The construction we are talking about in this context is one that can be observed in the many different practices of actors engaged in international politics  Social constructivists o Analyze how structure and agency affect each other in IR o Express interest in the role of ideas, norms, and institutions in foreign policy making o Believe in an importance of identity and culture in IR o Attempt to understand how interests in policy making are constructed o Accepts that social science cannot operate like the natural sciences ORIGINS rd th  1980s – IR was dominated by the 3 and 4 debates  1 debate: realism and idealism o Questioned about the nature of international politics and the nature of human beings o And whether human beings inherently bad and peace is therefore difficult to achieve o Idealism was revamped to liberalism o Both theories had accepted the state as a central power, and an actor in IR o Disagreed on what is power? Military or economic  2 debate: behaviourialists and traditionalists o About methodology o Behaviourialists wanted to turn IR into a proper science o Traditionalists argued that that international politics cannot be studied like the natural sciences  The traditional (philosophical) methods of historians were more beneficial to understand international politics o Hedley Bull – representative of traditionalists in the 1960s to 1970s  Core figures of English School of IR  Yosef Lapid o Famous article about the future of IR in 1989 Social Constructivism Chapter 7 o Focused on neo-neo camp or “rationalism” and the various approaches that criticized this theory o Attack on rationalism was multi-faceted o Questioned the status of states (ontologically) o Sided with the English School and the traditionalists and rejected the notion of science (in which both neo theories are based on) (methodologically)  Ole Waever rd o Counts the neo-neo debate (above) as the 3 debate o Sees the debate between rationalists and reflectivists as the 4 one  Little to gain from this debate for future development of IR Concept Box: Structure and Agency in IR  This is why social constructivists see themselves as the  We begin with the structures that influence the behaviour of “middle ground” theory individuals  Emanuel Adler – “occupying the space between the individualist account of rationalism (which starts from the  Most theories focus on one side or individual subject) and the holism of structuralism the other and not a combination of (encompassing all accounts of world politics both  Example: explanation of o SC was to provide the via media by accepting some underdevelopment aspects of both theories  Social constructivists define themselves by distancing them o Blame the corrupt leaders from both poles to various degrees (agency) o Blame colonialism or ASSUMPTIONS capitalism (structure)  Max Weber – social co
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