IR2501 Week 5 - Constructivism by stariya


Theories of International Relations

            Week 5:

       1) Historical Context
       2) Ideas, Matter and Reality
       3) The First Generation: Onuf, Kratochwil, Wendt
       4) The Second Generation: Adler, Finnemore & Sikkink
       5) The Third Generation: Realist Constructivism
       6) Conclusion
Warning: messy politics of knowledge…

1. Historical Context: The Meteoric Rise of Constructivism

    End of Cold War
          o problem of change from within
          o discredited Marxian alternative
    Philosophical, Linguistic, Methodological „Turns‟
          o critiques of mainstream IRT: post-positivism
          o problem of double-bind: since its inception, IR has restricted itself
                    global politics  interstate relations  conflict
                    …now can‟t make sense of identity, poverty, environment, etc.
    Constructivism: via tertia?
2. Ideas, Matter and Reality: What’s the matter with materialism?

What is the world made of, and how can we tell?
       Ontology:       monism vs. dualism
       Epistemology: realism vs. instrumentalism

Two approaches to „knowledge‟:
   1. Explaining
   2. Understanding

1. Explaining
    Positivism & law-like regularities
    Ontology: philosophical naturalism
          o social & physical world work the same way
    …social science
          o Reveals objective Truth

2. ‘Understanding’
    If reasons can be causes, then…
          o hermeneutics
          o analysing discourse & its connection to political practices
    ontologically „fluid‟  „laws‟ depend on time & place...
    …social science??
          o Interprets world from a viewpoint

Two kinds of theory:
       Materialism:    ideas are the product of „deeper‟ material processes (e.g.
       Idealism:       Ideas matter (e.g. NRA & dark alleys)
The First Generation:

    Influences: Wittgenstein, Weber
    dissatisfaction with mIRT
          o focusing on instrumental rationality  miss interesting questions
            about why agents have certain goals, why/when they change them, etc.
                     e.g. religious radicalisation
          o defining knowledge only as „scientific‟ knowledge & methods,
            excludes lots of objects of study (e.g. Realism & ideology) & lots of
            methods (quantitative vs. qualitative analysis)
          o problem with „revealed preferences‟ approach in mIRT:
    focus on interpretative activity by human beings: inevitable
          o  focus on norms („agreed interpretations‟)
    Norms:
          o Personal and collective identities, institutions, etc.
          o Norms are
                     intersubjective
                     mutually constituted

    Influences: Wittgenstein, Giddens
    Significance of language:
          o Wittgenstein and „language games‟
    Structuration:
          o norms, but also material & ideational realms
    Rules:
          o simultaneously regulative and constitutive

    Influences: Giddens, Bhaskar
    „Scientific realism‟: belief in causation of unseen, „deep‟ structures
    These „deep‟ structures are constructed:
          o „Anarchy is what states make of it‟
    “I am a positivist” (Wendt 1999: 39)
Second Generation:

    Emmanuel Adler:
          o Security Communities
    Finnemore & Sikkink:
          o Norm transfer
    Michael Barnett:
          o Dialogues in Arab Politics
    Ted Hopf & Peter Katzenstein (Russian FP, security), Jeffrey Checkel
     (psychology), etc. ...

Third Generation: Realist Constructivism

    Reconciling Realism with Constructivism (Barkin, Sterling-Folker; ISR 2004)
          o Realism: material world
          o Constructivism: “providing the identity variable” (Checkel, 1998)
    Checkel “Saving Identity from Postmodernists”

       Ontological „fluidity‟ (intersubjectivity of norms)  mutual constitution of
             o norms & institutions
             o Agents & structures
             o Ideational & material

Wendt vs. Constructivism:
Social constructivism is
       Ontologically anti-essentialist
             o the „essence‟ of an entity is socially constructed,
       Epistemologically anti-foundationalist
             o Social truths cannot be „discovered‟, but are created  they changes in
               time and across space

…Wendt & most Constructivists, however, are Positivists!

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