POLS 2020 Lecture 4: 7 Worldview Outline

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8 Feb 2017
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Worldview Outline:
mainstream: Realist & Liberal
CONSTRUCTIVISM
Social construction of understanding of the world... the meanings that we give to various realities,
situations...
The social construction of reality:
1. There is no actual, objective reality, everything is simply a creation of the mind, the intent...
most often found in the humanities, not addressed here...
2. My view: while there are objective realities, there are varied, different ways of understanding,
framing, defining and responding to objective realities;
different worldviews, which shape the ways we understand the events and institutions around us;
the same events, facts, and processes are understood in different ways by people with different
worldviews.
G&P uses the constructivist approach to demonstrate the ways in which actual social interactions between
states modify theoretical approaches (e.g., the lack of an arms race between US & Canada)
The argument is completely legitimate; people simply understand the world, the same events or
facts, in very different ways. Hence, their explanations & prescriptions may not make any sense to
those who do not share their worldviews.
To clarify the importance of this, and therefore the importance of keeping the worldviews in mind, an
example from the run-up to WW2, conflicting approaches:
Idealist view:
Federal Council of Churches (1940): “We are convinced that there is ground for hope that a just peace is
now possible by negotiation. It is important for the welfare of mankind that the conflict end, not in
a dictated but in a negotiated peace based on the interests of all the people involved.”
Realist Response?
Reinhold Niebuhr (1940): “This statement was completely divorced from all political realities. Hitler
wanted a negotiated peace from the time he invaded Poland to the time the great offensive began.
Being in possession of the continent, a negotiated peace would have been possible only by leaving
him in possession of all the loot he had taken. A negotiated peace, when the Churches desired it,
would have been merely an easy Nazi victory...
The dogmatic insistence that nothing can possibly be worse than war leads to the acceptance of
tyranny, and uncritical identification of neutrality with the Christian ethic leads to a confusion of
the important moral distinction between contending forces. This condones a tyranny which has
destroyed freedom, is seeking to extinguish the Christian religion, debases its subjects to robots,
threatens the Jews of Europe with complete annihilation and all the nations of Europe with
subordination under the imperial domination of a “master race.” (They argue that) war, not Nazi
domination, imperils civilization. But those small neutral countries were gobbled up while they
hoped that the war could be won without their participation...”
Underlying idealist beliefs: anything is better than war, the greatest evil; moral equivalence: Hitlers
concerns are legit, and a response to injustice; no favoritism; Hitler should be an equal respected partner
in negotiations (see later in Bosnia, unwilling to assign guilt)
The realist critique is that some things are worth fighting for, that war and/or death is not the worst thing
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