5.2 CONSTRUCTIVISM: Characteristics and Conclusions (2016)Apunte Inglés
Characteristic, different types of Constructivism, Innovations and Critiques
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Theory of IR 2016
5.2. Constructivism in IR
5.2.1. MAIN IDEAS
• International Relations are a social construction, which means that the agents relate among
themselves and, consequently, they create and shape the system. The way agents behave
determine the way the structure is.
• International Relations as a social construction is the main idea proposed by Constructivists.
• Constructivism aims to study: I.
The change in the international system: Why the system changes? II. Social dimensions of IR III. “A world of our making” (Onuf, 1989), a world constructed by international actors that depend on what do we want to be. Nothing determines the way the world works: we are the only ones making the world the way we want it to be.
5.2.2. CHARACTERISTICS A. States cannot be understood without making a reference to the context they live in. If they live in a context of struggle, conflict will appear. But if struggle has decreased, they will live in peace.
B. The agents decide the structure: Mutual construction of actors and structures. The structure is formed by the behaviour of the main actors. If agents decide to construct more cooperative relations, the structure will change, if they decide that they want more conflict, the structure will also change. Agents and structure are reinforcing themselves — They are mutually constitutive.
C. The role of agency: The individual influences the environment, and vice-versa. Agents have decided to create the world they live in (Wendt, 1992). “Anarchy is what states make of it”.
D. The three cultures of Anarchy (Wendt, 1992): Hobbesian / Lockean / Kantian. The states are the ones deciding how the structure will be. These 3 cultures of Anarchy are 3 different ways how you can understand anarchy. These 3 cultures of anarchy coexist.
• HOBBESIAN: International system where power relations will predominate. Relation of “all against all”. Eg: In the Middle East there would be a Hobbesian conception of Anarchy, as there is no one above the Middle Eastern States telling them how to act and how to behave. Iran and Saudi Arabia would be considered the central actors there, as well as Israel, Turkey and Gulf States: There are multiple powers, which means that it is multipolar. But why is it Hobbesian anarchical? The power relations are based on competition. Syria would be the best example to characterise this competition and power struggle: There are 2 big powers that have interests in Syria, and each of them are supporting different parties in war (ones finance al-Assad, and the others finance the opposition parties).
• LOCKEAN: Order is predominating the structure of the system. Eg: In East Asia there is cooperation rather than conflict for power all time. There is a Marta Busquets Theory of IR 2016 regional organisation trying to reach this cooperation. There is cooperation without necessity of becoming friends, such as France and China, or USA and Canada.
• KANTIAN: Eg: The European Union would be an example. There is something above the States that helps to promote both order and common values, such as identity, culture, eliminating the possibility of war between the states in the union. The possibility of a war between France and Germany doesn’t exist thanks to the values promoted by the EU.
E. Interests and identities as social and intersubjective acts.
F. Change and alternatives are possible in the international system. Because the system is a social construction, we are able to change it. The system is not static.
A State is also a social construction: To become a new State, I need the recognition of the international system and the international society. Because of this, Catalonia is not a state, as it doesn’t have international recognition yet.
Money is also a social construction, as it doesn’t have value unless we give it to them.
Anything we do, in fact, is a social construction, as it is our decision to act the way we act and to behave the way we do.
5.2.3. THE MIDDLE GROUND It combines 2 different things: 1. Positivist epistemology: Application of the science to our discipline.
2. Social ontology: Social aspects of International Relations Since 1992 onwards, this is considered the central theory of our discipline.
5.3. Kinds of Constructivism 5.3.1. CONVENTIONAL CONSTRUCTIVISM [Hopf, 1998] It is the original Constructivism (the very first one).
It is interested in explaining better and not based on emancipation.
5.3.2. UNIT-LEVEL CONSTRUCTIVISM [Krasner, 1999] The main object of study is what is within the state, as for example, studying the role of leaders.
5.3.3. SYSTEMIC CONSTRUCTIVISM [Wendt, 1999] “A social theory of international politics”. Is the one we have studied, that focuses on analysing the system.
Marta Busquets Theory of IR 2016 5.3.4. HOLISTIC CONSTRUCTIVISM It analyses what is within the state but also analyses the system. It is a combination of the unitlevel constructivism and the systemic constructivism.
5.4. Conclusions 5.4.1. INNOVATIONS The innovation of this theory is the fact that it can combine the main aspects of the different theories we have been studying until now. It can provide a scientific explanation of how the system works, but it also focuses on the social construction of the system.
5.4.2. CRITICS The critical theories will criticise them: I.
Is the “win-win” solution to IR debates possible? Wasn’t it all a question of social interaction? II. Constructivism is falling into the trap of positivism. Constructivism is not emancipatory, is only reproducing the world we live in.
III. Realist critique: The end of the Cold War as a consequence of a relative loss of power.
The attempt of Constructivism to build a general theory doesn’t mean that the rest of theories should be forgotten.