Constructivism In Framing The Study Of International Relations Essay Samples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Relationships, International Relations, Theater, Sociology, Theory, Actors, Politics, World

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2023/05/15

Research of international relations in the modern world are positioned and position themselves as a scientific discipline. Accordingly, the positioning of research in international relations as a science can be used for their theoretical and methodological understanding of the extensive on processing made in the field of history of science and philosophy of science.
Wide range of classical IR theories give us a more theoretical understanding of world affairs and system of international relations. However, the situation worldwide is changing and not every traditional theory is able to describe or explain the roots of problem. Therefore, in that case it is more appropriate to apply for relatively new theories as postmodernism, constructivism, critical theory, etc. In this essay, I want to attract readers’ attention to constructivism theory. As it is comparatively new study, most of scholars would be wonder how constructivism could be appropriate for the framing the study of international relations. To make it clear, firstly, I am going to describe main points and setting of constructivism; secondly, to explain the ideas and positions of constructivism representatives; thirdly, to define the role and impacts of constructivism. Gathering all this information, we can answer the question: is it appropriate or not.

Constructivism as a theory study

Constructivism in international relations theory is based on the works of sociologists and philosophers of the XX century and actively declared itself in 1970 -1980s. Its foundations were laid by social constructivism - a sociological theory of knowledge developed by P. Berger and T. Luckmann . In fact, in international relations, constructivism was an attempt to use the appropriate epistemology to the study of the state of international affairs.
Constructivists are genetically close to the English School of International Studies, the most striking representatives are M. White and H. Bull. English School of International Studies offers to consider international relations as an international society in which the state is not just involved in a power struggle, but limited in their confrontation of common rules and institutions, moral imperatives and legal norms.
Actually, the use of the term "constructivism" in international relations associated with the work of N. Onuf “World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations” , in which the question about the arbitrary nature of the constructed norms, regulating international relationships, was raised.
The initial setting is that the world of international relations is social reality, which is neither always given nor rational predetermined, but on the contrary, can and should be seen as a social construct, an idea that is perceived as natural and obvious to those who accept it.
Constructivists view international relations as constructed by the actors - states, international organizations, multinational companies and others based on their socio-cultural features and national identity.
Constructivist school comes from the fact that foreign policy is socially constructed. In accordance with this, constructivism argues that the structure of the international "system" is not confined to the distribution of material resources and abilities, but also include social interactions related to the distribution of social relationships and forming identity, behavior and interests of the actors.
Constructivism, in contrast to the classical paradigm of the theory of international relations, not just the Government considers the actors of international relations, but it raises the question of how and why the state plays this role. Actors of international relations are mutually formed each other's behavior. They have a certain freedom with respect to the structure of international relations. However, the latter seriously affect the process of mutual formation of actors each other's behavior, though not dictate it.
At the core of the international behavior of states is the meaning that they attach to the object of their behavior - patterns and other actors, evaluating them as friendly, hostile or neutral. In this international system - part of society, which is a feature of the operation of relying on a set of jointly agreed international affairs and regulatory rules, values and institutions.
Despite a certain tendency to exaggerate, the role of the Constructivist structures to the detriment of the actors, in fact, in their theory of the structure themselves strongly dependent on the actors. The social context of the power of the world, defines the nature of the actors, but at the same time, it is the actors reproduce the basic rules and institutions.
For example, the Constructivists, agreeing with the opinion of the anarchic nature of international relations, have concluded that anarchy - a product of conscious activity, and not some inherent property of the international system, according to the theorists of classical approaches. Accordingly, there is no "eternal" anarchy among states, acting on the same rules. In different periods of the history of relations between states can be controlled by different regulations. Abstract consideration of the concept of international anarchy thus not able to shed light on the real relations between states. The concept of anarchy must be considered in the temporal and intersubjective context .
Such consideration implies international anarchy special look at the possibility of transforming the anarchic international system. Realists are extremely skeptical about this possibility, while liberals admit the possibility of eliminating extreme forms of anarchy through the development and democratization of economic interdependence. Constructivists also believe that changes will occur only when the actors taking certain actions, transforming the constitutive rules.

The views of main constructivists’ representatives

Constructivism in international relations is most closely connected with the name of A.Wendt, whose work, in fact, laid the foundations of this theoretical direction. Theoretical basis of the approach to the study of international relations of A. Wendt were formulated in the article “Anarchy is What State Make of it: the Social Construction of Power Politics” . The focus of the article is to demonstrate that one of the key concepts of realism - power politics - indeed, socially and may be converted in the course of human activity.
Considering the identity of the state, A. Wendt defines it as a relatively stable, based on the roles, expectations regarding the actor himself. Identity formation of the state takes place in the course of interaction with other participants in international relations. As pointed out by A. Wendt, “identity as a separate entity cannot be determined in isolation from the social context - they are intrinsically linked. As a result, the identity should be treated as a set of values ​​that the subject attributes to himself, considering the actions of others actors” . Thus, the knowledge of the government itself, directly attributable to the perception of the other participants in international relations.
Later A. Wendt in the “Social Theory of International Politics” developed a systematic research project, at the center of which the state acting in an anarchic environment, not asocial distribution structure of material power factors, such as international relations presented in neorealism. Thus, in contrast to the neorealism, he shifts the emphasis, emphasizing not the material, but the social nature of international relations - a structure of international relations A. Wendt understands the structure of "shared beliefs" of the states that constitute the culture of international cooperation, which determines the nature and purpose of use of the material factors power.
According to A. Wendt international system is created, reproduced and transformed only through the interaction of actors who create the social reality - "the international nature of life is determined by beliefs and expectations that states have about each other, and it is established by social rather than material structures" . The logic of international anarchy has not independent content, but is determined by the culture of relations between actors in world politics, based on shared their views.
A. Wendt claimed, “One of the main characteristics of the social actor of international relations is the ability to purposeful reasoned action, suggesting the presence of consciousness. Thus, the state becomes independent anthropomorphic entity that allows it to function as the exclusive carrier of the intentional world political action” .
John Ruggie , criticizing the concept of an international framework of K. Waltz, refers to the absence of the answer to the question about the logic of the transformation of the international system, which does not explain the transition from one system to another. According to Ruggie, the modern system of international relations is characterized by a different level of differentiation - the exclusive competence of the nation-state, which is based on the idea of mutual recognition of sovereignty. Thus, by introducing the concept of differentiation in the study, John Ruggie believes that the dimension which he outlines, and there will be a possible impending transformation of the current system in the postmodern.
Iver Neumann criticizes anthropomorphization of the state, indicating, the state gets an anthropomorphic nature, qualitatively different from all non-state actors in world politics. This will be an obstacle in the analysis of interference of state and non-state actors in the context of globalization. Neumann offers approach to the analysis of the state as an actor in world politics in terms of linguistic analysis, which, in his opinion, overcomes the disadvantages associated with anthropomorphic vision of the world political entity action.
Constructivist approach in the field of Security Studies developed within the Copenhagen School and focuses on how certain issues are security issues, as threats are becoming threats. The representatives of the Copenhagen School - B. Buzan and O. Waever - offer a new model for understanding the international and regional security. Researchers at the Copenhagen School refuse to consider whether there is a threat in reality, whether they exist objectively, and argue that all threats are constructed. Copenhagen School argues that the weapon itself is not a threat. In accordance with the Copenhagen school between actors there is a competition for the right to determine what is a threat, what is safe. The key concept of constructivism in research of security - securitization, refers to the process of how a question or a problem there is a question or a problem of security.

The Role of Constructivism

Constructivism in international relations today is actively developing. Since the 1990s, this trend is seeking for popularity and widespread acceptance in the scientific community. Until the mid-1990s, it might seem that this trend will contribute to a methodological and ideological reorientation of Western international relations theory; however, it has evolved another trend. Indicative was the release in 1996 of the collective labor «The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics», edited by P. Katzenstein . Methodologically and ideologically, constructivist approach, presented in the book, was close to the settings prevailing theories in international relations. The authors, all of whom were representatives of the critical areas, in their articles mainly stuck to positivism, when, for example, examined identity and cultural norms as "independent variables" that determine the actions of the states. In ideological terms, the authors adhered to the idea of a soft power of the US hegemony and thus defined the goal to a "conventional" constructivism as the spread of American values in the world. Therefore, we see that if the initially constructivism has been influenced by critical theory, and then the traditional approaches have become a reference point for the adoption of appropriate orientations .
Under the rule of "conventional" versions of constructivism, many scientists began to abandon the label of the constructivists. They criticized it for giving up the achievements of the "language" rotation and the theory of social construction in exchange for recognition among the scientific community. Thus, today there is a reverse trend of returning to the family of constructivist theories and critical failure of the compromise with the realism and liberalism.
Another very important issue in determining the location of constructivism in modern international relations theory - understanding of the systems of international relations. A systematic approach to the analysis of international relations adopted almost by all researchers and systemic nature of international relations is not questioned.
American Constructivism A. Wendt also represents a systematic research project, which is located in the center of the state, acting in an anarchic environment, but it shifts the focus, emphasizing the social nature of international relations. At the center of his attention - the interactions of agents (actors), creating social reality. The international system is created, reproduced and can be transformed only through the interaction of agents .
Fundamentally important is the solution of the question of the interests of agents and their identity. From the standpoint of political realism, they are not subject of changes in the process of interactions between the actors and the structure of the system only changes the behavior of actors. Constructivist understanding of international relations as a social relationship suggests that the structure has impact on the interests and identities of agents (actors), in other words, the interests and identity - dependent variables; they are endogenous to the process of interaction and "constructed" them .
Thus, system of international relations in the research of constructivists has a completely different content. From our perspective, it was constructivism provides more opportunities for the implementation of a systematic approach to the analysis of the phenomena of international life.
Constructivism has had a great influence on modern theoretical discussion. It returned to the center of the debate of social, historical and normative issues. The old "materialistic" attitude theory of international relations was criticized and reviewed the value of intangible factors (ideas, norms, values).
However, some researchers and directions have also criticized constructivism. While most scientists recognizes the originality and independence of constructivism as a distinct paradigm, some see it as a new version of American liberalism. Other critics say a mixture of constructivism realist and liberal approaches and conclusions from this his inconsistency. Critical theory of constructivism blame for the fact that he did not go to the end of the study regulations, as it does not consider the norms of research, that is, forget about the connection of power and knowledge.

List of references

Berger, P. & Luckmann, T., 1966. The Social Construction of Reality. A Treatise on sociology of Knowledge. New York: Anchor Book.
Bull, H., 1995. The anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics. 2 ed. New York: Columbia University Press.
Buzan, B. & Waever, O., 2003. Regions and Powers: The structure of International Security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Katzenstein, P., 1996. The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics. New York: Columbia University Press.
Neumann, I., 2004. Beware of organicism: The Narrative Self of the State. Review of International Studies, 30(2), pp. 259-267.
Onuf, N., 1989. World of Our Making: Rulers and Rule in Social Theory and International Relations. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.
Price, R. & Reus-Smit, C., 1998. Dangerous Liaisons? Constructivism and Critical International Theories. European Journal of International Relations, 4(3), pp. 259-294.
Ruggie, J., 1998. Constructing the World Polity: Essays on International Institutionalization. New York: Routledge.
Wendt, A., 1992. Anarchy is what State Make of it: the Social Construction of Power Politics. International Organization, N 2(Vol. 46), pp. 391-425.
Wendt, A., 1999. Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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