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Political Science
Political Science 2231E
Nigmendra Narain

Reading: Chapter 7- Social Constructivism October-16-12 9:29 PM Introduction -Social Constructivism: o Youngest major theories o Main attraction/difficulty- tries to occupy the "middle ground" in IR o Proponents: accept the influence of both structures and agency and focus on how they influence each other o Social constructivists: attempt to find a practical answer to the postmodern challenge to scientific knowledge in order to be able to conduct empirical research  Interested in the interplay of interests and ideas  Impact of norms, culture and institutions on international politics  Themes addressed: construction of national interests, the spread of human rights, the impact of international organizations on state identities (and vice versa), or the development of different forms of international society  Constructivism: they acknowledge that human beings are always situated in particular contexts which inform their actions, they also reproduce, or construct their world through their actions o World we live in is therefore always contextual  This is stark contrast to neo-realism, which argues that the basic features of the international system are universal and have been operating in history as well as at present  The process of construction is a social process- it cannot be done by one person alone, but only in the engagement with others  Conclude: Social Constructivists: o Analyse the interplay between structure and agency in international politics o Are interested in the role of ideas, norms and institutions in foreign policy making; o Argue for the importance of identity and culture in international politics; o Do not deny the role of policy making, but try to understand how these interests are constructed; o Accept that social science cannot operate like the natural sciences, but nonetheless insist on the possibility to theorise and empirically analyse international politics as a reality Origins  Second half of the 1980's, IR dominated by "third, sometimes fourth debate" o 1st debate: between realism and idealism (asked ontological questions: the nature of being ex. Human beings; inherently bad and peace will never be achieved) o 2nd debate: behaviouralists vs. traditionalists  Behavioralists: about methodolgy; focus on formulation of universally valid theories that explain outcomes; basis of causal relationships between observable behaviour  Traditionalists: argue IR cannot be studied like natural science; doubt on the possibility of formulating universally valid theories  Instead suggest that the traditional (philosophical) methods of historians in particular were more adequate to understanding international politics o 3rd debate: Neo-Neo debate: o 4th debate: rationalists vs. reflectivists  Looks like a paradoxical position, trying to combine elements of postmodernism and realism  Emmanuel Adler identified social constructivism as occupying the space between the individualists account of rationalism, which starts from the individual subject and the holism of structuralism which focuses on all-encompassing accounts of world politics; between the agency of oriented explanations of rationalism and the focus on structure in structuralism; and between the materialism integral to rationalism and ideationalism in cognitive approaches o Social constructivism was to provide the via media by accepting some of the ontological insights of reflectivism, as well as respecting the epistemological concerns, but without giving up the aim to understand and possibly even to explain concrete outcomes of international politics o Mistaken view however  Should be viewed more as an approach to IR than a fixed perspective.  Social constructivism does not put forward a set of coherent hypothesis that would form a unified theory in the narrow sense of them; is not a theory like neo-liberalism o Instead, it operates with a series of core assumptions on the basis of which more specific hypotheses and arguments need to be formulated o Term approach rather than theory  Logic of Appropriateness: sociologists James March and Johan Olsen developed a notion that action is driven by different kinds of logic o Distinguish between the logic of consequentiality and the logic of appropriateness o When people act according to the logic of consequentiality they pursue pa
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