INR Chapter 4 Notes: Economic Structuralism & Constructivism

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Department
Political Science
Course Code
INR 2001
Professor
Paul D’ Anieri

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INR2001 Chapter 4 Notes 9/14/13  Economic Structuralism o Known as Marxism o Focuses on the role of economic power and exploitation and sees international politics as a struggle between capitalists and workers over the profits generated by workers’ labor o Response to liberalism o Focuses on above all economics as a motivation in politics and as a source of power o Assumptions  Economic structuralism assumes that economics is the driving motivation behind political activity (known as economic determinism)  Wealth is a fungible resource meaning that it can be converted into other resources  Economic structuralism sees the fundamental actors in politics not as individuals or states but as classes  Classes: groups of people at different places in the economic hierarchy  At the top are people who own capital: resources that can be used to produce further wealth  At the bottom are those who must sell their labor to others to earn money (commonly called workers)  Owners of the capital are known as the bourgeoisie and the workers are known as the proletariat o Propositions  Surplus value: in economic structuralist theory, the difference between the value of raw materials and the value of the final product presumable this is the value added by laborers  The owner of capital has structural power o Surplus Value and International Politics  When economic structuralists apply the domestic concept of surplus value internationally, it leads them to question how international politics affects the distribution of wealth in the world, which is their central concern  The drive for economic expansion drives international politics  Powerful states and wealthy capitalists use what power they have to gain even more, by forcing weaker actors into the parts of the production process that yield relatively little reward and saving the lucrative parts for themselves  Two key differences between realists and economic structuralists:  Realist theories explore politics between the “great powers” because the most powerful drive the system, whereas economic structuralists focus on relations between the strong and the weak  Realists assert that the exploitation of the weak is simply a fact of life that must be accepted, whereas economic structuralist theorists consider it an unacceptable fact that must be changed somehow o War and Peace  Two schools of thought about war and peace  Capitalism inevitably leads, through imperialism, to war  The opposite of the first school: owners of capital and the governments of powerful states are smart enough to recognize that, rather than fighting each other, they are better off collaborating to exploit the weak  Constructivism o From the constructivist perspective, realist, liberal, and economic structuralist approaches are all essentially similar in that they are strongly materialist (materialist theories are those that see material factors, such as money, territory, and weapons, as driving international politics) o Constructivism looks at the powerful role that ideas play in international politics o The effects of material factors are not predetermined, they depend on how we think about them o Constructivism seeks to investigate purpose: the goals that actors pursue with the power they have o Focuses on three kinds of ideas: interests, identities, and norms o Interests  Rather than assuming interests and then connecting them to behavior, constructivists ask where interests come from  Interests: in constructivist theory, socially constructed goals that groups of people together define for society  They find that interests are “socially constructed,” meaning that groups of people together define what is good and bad and what the goals of society are  Apartheid: a system of official discrimination in South Africa in which the African majority was controlled by the white minority (dismantled in the 1990s) o Identities  Identities: in constructivist theory, actors’ and others’ perceptions of who they are and what their roles are  Constructivists assert that what it means to be a “sovereign state” changes over time  Constructivists investigate the extent to which different states might develop shared identities  Ex: The European Union  Alliance patterns among the Arab states are explained more completely by identity politics than by the balance of power  The Israel-U.S. alliance is best explained neither by the balance of power not by domestic politics but by the perception of shared values o Norms  Norms: shared rules or principles that influence behavior  More specifically, they can be viewed as “collective expectations for the proper behavior of actors”  Ex
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