The English School: ideas, traditions and theory

Central ideas in the English School

The ‘English School’ label was first written down by Roy Jones in 1981. According to Hall, Dunne and Wheeler’s commitment to solidarism and constructivism eschew some of the English School’s foundational ideas such as the centrality of states, importance of power politics and a deep skepticism about the possibility of different political communities reaching agreement on substantive political matters.
A third perspective, somewhere between these two poles, has arisen as a result of the increased dialogue between English School ideas and other worldviews – most notably realism and constructivism.[1]

Constructivism is a broad church; constructivists share three common concerns that also resonate with English School theorists.
First, they argue that normative and ideational structures are just as important as material structures, an idea that relates closely to the English School’s ideas of international theory as normative theory and the importance of interpretivism.
The second common concern is that ideational structures shape the identities and therefore interests of actors in world politics.
The third common view is that the relationship between agents and structures is mutually constitutive.

Constructivism attempts to find a synthesis between approaches that focus on the actions of actors and the way that they create political institutions and ideologies and structural approaches, including neorealism and Marxism, which hold that political action is shaped by socioeconomic and historical structures.[2]

The social structures that constitute and constrain states in international society are themselves constructed and maintained by social interaction between states, a point commonly accepted by English School theorists. It is important, however, to recognize that the English School and constructivism are not synonymous.
In particular, the School is committed to methodological pluralism and a tripartite conception of world politics.[3]

For Wight, ‘realist’ worldviews and practices are based on ‘power politics’. They emphasize the inherent conflict between states, the anarchical condition of world politics and the role of war as the ultimate arbiter.[4]

Realism refers to a leader’s primary responsibility for the welfare of citizens. In contractarian terms, a state can be understood as having a contract to secure its own citizens. Realism operates under the assumption that states are the only actors on the political stage, also known as ‘statism’ and ‘individualism’.[5]

Additionally, the states work in an anarchical system, meaning in the absence of higher, trans-governmental and universally recognizable authority no rules are applied in the international realm. The other assumption is that politics is driven by law of human behavior- the mix of urges like the drive for powers, will to dominate, self-interest and ambition.

Major differences between three traditions of the English School: realism, rationalism and revolutionalism

The ‘three traditions’ idea was Wight’s response to his own observation that there was no discrete body of international theory separable from legal, historical and philosophical forms of knowledge. There are two ways to understand the meaning of tradition.
The first is to see a tradition as a form of intellectual inheritance. A tradition is a mode of thought handed down through generations. Participants in a tradition believe that what they are doing and how they are thinking can be traced to past generations.[6]

Тraditions are externally constructed and imposed – they are not descriptions of the way things really are but categories to enable our understanding. Second, they are sets of ideas or modes of thinking, not really existing objects.[7]

As was mentioned before, for Wight, ‘realist’ worldviews and practices are based on ‘power politics’. They emphasize the inherent conflict between states, the anarchical condition of world politics and the role of war as the ultimate arbiter.

‘Rationalism’ sits somewhere between realism and revolutionism though there is considerable debate over which pole it is closest to. Rationalism is based on the notion that the world’s diverse communities and cultures are housed in states that together form an international society. Rationalists insist that states can agree to construct and follow rules that facilitate their mutual existence and prosperity.[8]

Whilst rationalism is often dubbed the ‘Grotian conception’ of international society, it is important to recognize that there are at least two rationalist ‘strands’ within the English School.[9] Both accept the idea that states form an international society, but they disagree about what type of society it is. Those that accept a Vattelian or pluralist view of international society argue that states are only bound by whatever rules they consent to.

Others hold a Grotian or solidarist view.[10] The Grotian view differs from the Vattelian in at least two ways. First, Grotius argued that states had an inherent right to defend themselves and to punish those who commit basic wrongs. Second, the Grotian perspective holds that states are bound to obey international law irrespective of whether they consent to be so bound.

The third tradition is revolutionism, which can be either benign or malevolent. Revolutionists share a belief in moral universalism. Whereas rationalists insist that moral values derive from the society and state in which they exist, revolutionists argue that certain moral principles are universal.[11]

Wight and Bull were both skeptical about revolutionism. Wight associated it with fascist and communist movements that wanted to replace international society violently with a global government in its own image. Bull was concerned that revolutionism or the quest for global distributive justice would ultimately destroy global order and replace it with unmitigated anarchy. [12]

As Jackson pointed out, each tradition could be thought of as a layer of responsibility confronting political leaders which taken together point to the important normative and pragmatic dilemmas that shape world politics.

Similarities between English School and Realism

The foundational claim of the English School is that sovereign states form a society, albeit an anarchic one in that they do not have to submit to the will of a higher power.[13] There is, they argue, a surprisingly high level of order and a surprisingly low level of violence between states given that their condition is one of anarchy.

This is not to suggest that the English School ignores the phenomenon of violence in relations between states. Its members regard violence as an endemic feature of the ‘anarchical society’ but they also stress that it is controlled to an important extent by international law and morality.[14] Even so, confusion about the central purpose of the School can result from the fact that its members seem distinctively realist at times.

Members of the English School are attracted by elements of realism and idealism, yet gravitate towards the middle ground, never wholly reconciling themselves to either point of view.[15] Members of the English School maintain that the international political system is more civil and orderly than realists and neo-realists suggest. However, the fact that violence is ineradicable in their view puts them at odds with utopians who believe in the possibility of perpetual peace.[16]

The English School recognizes that each approach contains insights about the condition of international politics. The realist’s claim that states, unlike individuals in civil society, are forced to provide for their own security in the condition of anarchy is valuable, as is its emphasis on how adversaries seek to outmaneuver, control and overpower one another.[17]

However, this perspective captures only part of the substance of world politics. The international system is not a state of war despite the fact that each state has a monopoly of control of the instruments of violence within its territory.[18] Because of a common interest in placing restraints on the use of force, states have developed the art of accommodation and compromise which makes an international society possible.

Three pillars of English School

Whilst realism, rationalism and revolutionism are sets of ideas about the way the world is and how to shape it best, ‘international system’, ‘international society’ and ‘world society’ are analytical devices to help us understand the global polity at any particular historical juncture.[19] They are labeled as triad the three pillars of English School theorizing.

According to Bull, an international system is formed whenever states are in regular contact with one another and where

‘there is interaction between them, sufficient to make the behaviour of each a necessary element in the calculation of the other’.[20]

Beyond the simple assertion that states comprise an international society, there are important differences about the type of international society we live in today and the type we ought to live in. As Buzan argues, it is a debate about both the

‘degree and institutionalization of shared interests and values’ and about the ‘collective enforcement of rules’.[21]

Both pluralist (Vattelian) and solidarist (Grotian) conceptions contain descriptive as well as prescriptive components. To date, both of these approaches have tended to assume that international society is a society of states and to focus on the types of diplomatic and legal intercourse and historical analyses that informed early English School approaches. The dialogue between pluralism and solidarism helps to highlight the important tension between conceptions of order and justice in IR.

By contrast, ‘world society’ is much less well defined. Manning describes it as the society of ‘all mankind’ which exists ‘within, beneath, alongside, behind and transcending’ the society of states.[22] Martin Wight, too, has a vague concept of a world society united by a thin common culture. For Wight, all international societies are subsystems of this wider world society.

Bull himself identified world society as ‘a degree of interaction linking all parts of the human community to one another’ and insisted that it was held together by ‘a sense of common interest and common values’.[23] Later, Bull even went as far as identifying ‘human rights’ as the basic value that bound world society together.

The three traditions are modes of thought carried by diplomats, politicians, intellectuals and other individuals in the three pillars that comprise global politics (international system, international society and world society). Thinking of international system, international society and world society in this way raises important questions about the relationship between the three pillars.[24]

Kantian concept of world politics and “benign” and “malevolent” revolutionalism

The third tradition is revolutionism, which can be either benign (Bull’s ‘Kantian’ perspective) or malevolent (e.g. Marxist or Islamic fundamentalist). Revolutionists share a belief in moral universalism. Whereas rationalists insist that moral values derive from the society and state in which they exist, revolutionists argue that certain moral principles are universal.[25]

As Bull put it, the universal imperative has been

‘fed by a striving to transcend the states system so as to escape the conflict and disorder that have accompanied it’.[26]

Wight and Bull were both skeptical about revolutionism. Wight associated it with fascist and communist movements that wanted to replace international society violently with a global government in its own image. Bull was concerned that revolutionism or the quest for global distributive justice would ultimately destroy global order and replace it with unmitigated anarchy.[27]

More recently, however, revolutionism has become associated with a Kantian conception of world politics based on the idea that there is a world society of individuals that comes prior to the society of states. From this perspective, sovereignty and other international rules should be understood as instrumental values because they derive from states responsibility to protect the welfare of their citizens, and when states fail in this duty, they lose their sovereign rights.[28]

Kant held that revolution, even against a tyrant, is always impermissible, but he did not make a compelling case for this extremely conservative position. Kant was mistaken to hold that participation in revolution is always wrong; his position is compatible with his insistence that rulers are bound by justice and his hopeful attitude toward the French Revolution.[29]

Kant is adamant in his stand against instigating and participating in revolutions against the de facto rulers of the state.[30] Regardless of how tyrannical the head of state may be, Kant says, no person has the right to attempt to overthrow him. Revolutionaries must be punished by death, he insists, even if their motives were honorable.

Even so, Kant was optimistic about revolutions as forces for moral progress that we might otherwise never achieve.[31] He was known as a supporter of the French Revolution, reportedly referred to as “the old Jacobin.” The way the French Revolution inspired spectators throughout Europe, Kant says, was among the most significant events in history, for it reflected a moral disposition that gives hope for continuing moral progress.[32]

With the decline of Marxism-Leninism, fundamentalist Islam now stands as the world’s leading anti-American ideology. The problem facing us is not Islam (a religion) but fundamentalist Islam (an ideology). We can oppose the ideology while at the same time respecting the faith; this, after all, is what the many anti-fundamentalists Muslims do.

Second, fundamentalists do not comprise a single movement. While they share certain beliefs (“Islam is the solution”) and opinions (such as anti-Western attitudes), they differ widely among themselves in temperament and in specific policies. [33]

The last paragraph of the Communist Manifesto reads:

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”[34]

And this includes two statements: that the existing social and political system Is to be changed by a revolution; and that a social revolution is to be identified with an overthrow of that existing social system by violence. [35]


[1] The English School. chapter 7 page 75 Griffiths, Martin (ed)

[2] Ibid page 76-77

[3] Ibid page 77

[4] Ibid page 79

[5] Explaining War: A comparison of Realism and Constructivism. http://www.e-ir.info/2012/05/03/explaining-war-a-comparison-of-realism-and-constructivism/

[6] The English School chapter 7 page 78 Griffiths, Martin (ed)

[7] Ibid page 78

[8] Ibid page 79

[9] Ibid page 79

[10] Ibid page 79

[11] Ibid page 79-80

[12] Ibid page 80

[13] The English School. Chapter 4. Andrew Linklater. Pp 84-108

[14] Ibid page 88

[15] Ibid page 88

[16] Ibid page 90

[17] Ibid page 90

[18] The English School. Chapter 4. Andrew Linklater. Pp 84-108

[19] The English School chapter 7 page 78 Griffiths, Martin (ed) page 80

[20] Ibid

[21] Ibid

[22] Ibid page 81

[23] Ibid

[24] Ibid

[25] The English School chapter 7 page 78 Griffiths, Martin (ed) page 79

[26] Ibid 79

[27] Ibid 79

[28] Ibid 80

[29] Questions About Kant’s Opposition to Revolution. The journal of Value Inquiry 36: 283-298, 2002. Thomas E. Hill, JR. Department of Philosophy, The university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

[30] Questions About Kant’s Opposition to Revolution. The journal of Value Inquiry 36: 283-298, 2002. Thomas E. Hill, JR. Department of Philosophy, The university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

[31] Questions About Kant’s Opposition to Revolution. The journal of Value Inquiry 36: 283-298, 2002. Thomas E. Hill, JR. Department of Philosophy, The university of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

[32] Ibid page 284

[33] Islamic Fundamentalists are the New Big Threat to the West. Daniel Pipes. Philadelphia Inquirer. September 16, 1994. http://www.danielpipes.org/255/islamic-fundamentalists-are-the-new-big-threat-to-the-west

[34] Marx and Engels. Communist Manifesto.

[35] Marxist Theory on Revolution and Violence. Adam Schaff. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2708729?uid=3738496&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21102043482747

 

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Post-structuralism as a Theory of International Relations (2)

Michel Foucault’s “regimes of truth” and biopower concepts

Foucauldian thinking insists on a close relation between power and knowledge or, more accurately, on the inseparability of what he calls ‘power/knowledge’. He talks in terms of ‘regimes of truth’, systems of power relations that determine what mechanisms are used in any particular era to determine what counts as true.

Each society has its own way of authorizing ‘truth’. And each system of power relations produces particular subjects and at the same time generates knowledges about those subjects. For example, in the criminal justice system, records are kept of offenders. The sum of these records produces the delinquent as subject.

Each society creates a “regime of truth” according to its beliefs, values, and mores. Foucault wrote that ‘Truth’ is to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation and operation of statements. ‘Truth’ is linked in a circular relation with systems of power which produce and sustain it, and to effects of power which it induces and which extend it.

A ‘regime’ of truth. Because of this, Foucault sees

“the political problems of intellectuals not in terms of ‘science’ and ‘ideology,’ but in terms of ‘truth’ and ‘power.'”

The question of how to deal with and determine truth is at the base of political and social strife. [1]

Michel Foucault first used the term biopower to describe a way in which a state can exert total control over its constituents. Biopower, Foucault argued, was the way in which capitalist states exerted control over people to better promote life. Major means of control were through statistics and probabilities.

States, meaning countries, analyzed likely responses to actions by the government and ways in which people could most probably be controlled and directed in all aspects of life. Even in a democratic state, this marriage of the social sciences to political sciences affects a high degree of control over a population, as Foucault claims. [2] Power such as that suggested in biopower is used for the good of the state to protect the lives of its people.

Such things as managing medical care might be part of a state employing biopower ruling techniques. However, Foucault takes this further, suggesting that best control can be achieved through eugenics. Eugenics is the theory rife with racism and classism, where humans apply the concepts of natural selection to benefit the human race.[3]

An example of this type of biopower can be evaluated by the current US relationship to several Arabic nations. There are some that argue the best action would be to destroy all Arabic nations and rid the world thus of terrorism. This is biopower in its most ugly and extreme form, and it is justifiable according to the concepts of Foucault. Such an exercise has been seen before in history in the mass extermination of Jews during WWII and in the more recent mass genocides in the Sudan.[4]


Subject and social order

The sociological ‘self’ is shaped significantly by the social and economic environment. In other words, the subject does not arrive in the world fully formed. Rather, the subject is developed by upbringing and socialization. It is in this context that the nature–nurture debate arises.[5]

The poststructural ‘move’ is far more radical, abandoning any residual notion of preexisting subjectivity. According to this way of thinking, the ‘subject’ and the ‘world’ are not distinct. Instead, they are produced, as ‘world’ and as ‘subject’, through social, cultural and particularly political practices. This is often expressed by saying that subject and social order are ‘mutually constituted’ or ‘co-constituted’. The important thing is that neither subject nor environment is ontologically privileged. The subject is not born into a world. The subject produces the world of which it is a part at the same time as it is itself produced.[6]

For Weedon, ‘subjectivity’ refers to that aspect of an individual’s psyche by means of which the person identifies themselves and their place in the world. This entails the person ‘inserting’ themselves into a particular ‘subject position’ within a chosen ‘discourse.’

Subjectivity is therefore liable to change and to change radically in the event of a new discourse becoming available, changes in power relations between rival discourses, or by different subject positions becoming available within one and the same discourse. [7] Seeing the subject as fragmented or as the potential holder of a diversity of identities or possible subject-positions, which is often retains the concept of an essential subject.[8]

However, identity can no longer be ‘possessed’ nor subjectivity ‘fragmented’. Sigmund Freud’s work proposed that people were not in control of their thoughts.[9] To account for certain symptoms that he observed in his patients and for common phenomena such as dreams, slips of the tongue and jokes, it was helpful to propose that a large part of thinking takes place in a separate realm, which Freud called ‘the unconscious’. [10]

 


 

[1] Michel Foucault: Truth and Power   http://www.wdog.com/rider/writings/foucault.htm

[2] What is Biopower? http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-biopower.htm

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

[5] Postconstructivism. Griffiths, Martin (ed). International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2007. Page 90

[6] Ibid page 90

[7]The poststructuralist subject. Review of Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory, Chris Weedon, 1987.  http://home.mira.net/~andy/works/weedon.htm

[8] Postconstructivism. Griffiths, Martin (ed). International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2007. Page 91

[9] Ibid page 91

[10] Ibid page 91

Post-structuralism as a Theory of International Relations (1)

Explaining IR

Poststructuralist philosophy had been a main feature of the Humanities since the 1970s and now – with the time lag with which academic vogues usually hit International Relations – making its way into Security Studies. Poststructuralism’s concern with power, structures, and the disciplining effects of knowledge seemed to resonate well with core themes in classical realist Security Studies.

Second, the political context was that of the Second Cold War, and poststructuralism was part of a wider political and normative contestation of the Reagan’s Administration and NATO’s understanding of the world as doomed to bipolar nuclear standoff and of the Soviet Union as the evil empire. As well as critical peace researchers in the 1970s, poststructuralists were also astute critics of the way in which the exploitation of the Third World underpinned Western military, political, and economic superiority. The way in which nuclear confrontation loomed large in the 1980s meant that “security” was one, if not the, major subfield of IR with which poststructuralists engaged. [1]

One aspect of poststructuralism is its power to resist and work against settled truths and oppositions. It can help in struggles against discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, against inclusions and exclusions on the basis of race, background, class or wealth. It guards against the sometimes overt, sometimes hidden, violence of established values such as an established morality, an artistic cannon or a fixed legal framework.

We shall see that this does not mean it denies them; rather, it works within them for the better. [2] It does not mean that poststructuralism is a fixed form of politics in the more restricted sense of government and power within social organizations.

One key aspect of poststructuralism is to show that power is not limited to organizations. This applies both to the limits of government, which extend far beyond laws and political structures, and to the limits of power, where power is to be understood not only as a power over others, but also as a power to change oneself and wider situations from within.[3]


Scholars of post-structuralist tradition

Poststructuralism is best described as a worldview or even an anti worldview. Scholars working within this worldview are skeptical of the possibility of overarching theoretical explanations for things that happen in the world. They prefer not to look for grand theories but rather to examine in details how the world comes to be seen and thought of, in particular ways at specific historical junctures and to study how particular social practices – things people do – work in terms of the relations of power and the ways of thinking that such practices produce or support.[4]

Formulating grand theory is seen as a social practice among other social practices: theories of how the world works are regarded as part of the world, not detached from it, and are studied by poststructuralists alongside other practices.[5] A starting assumption of poststructuralist thought is that there is no point outside the world from which the world can be observed: all observations and all theoretical systems, in physical theory or natural science as well as social theory, are part of the world they seek to describe or account for, and have an effect in that world.

For example, theories are not and cannot be politically neutral, but rather inevitably have a social and political impact.[6] In this picture of the world, then, the theorist of IR is not a detached observer of world politics but inevitably a participant in it.

There are some assumptions in which poststructuralist scholars are unconvinced by. One of them is: the assumption that it is possible to step outside the world and observe it or, to express the same thing differently, that the scholar can adopt a God-like detachment or otherworldliness.[7]
The other assumptions are all linked with each other: traditional, modernist approaches assume a world that comprises distinct entities, such as individuals, material objects, processes, events and structures that can be said to possess some form of essence or nature and that exist unproblematically in time.[8]

The job of political and social theory then becomes to describe and account for the relations and interactions that take place between objects and/or structures, and the job of normative theory to consider how we might decide what form those relations and interactions should take.

Poststructuralist ways of thinking, in contrast, do not start from this point. Rather, they are interested in the processes and practices that produce entities as distinct in the first place.[9] For example, rather than starting from the individual human being and asking how these individuals come together to form social groups, they ask how it is that we come to think in terms of people as separate and distinct individuals in the first place.[10]

Poststructuralist thinkers want to ask why we think in terms of entities or beings that are distinct one from another – why we see the world as made up of such entities existing against the background of a neutral flow of time – but they also want to dislodge this view, and suggest the possibility of thinking differently.[11]

Themes in post-structuralist work

Through poststructuralist work run themes that are closely interrelated, such as subjectivity, language and discourse, power relations and biopolitics and the notion of excess or lack.

Subjectivity

Poststructuralist notions of the subject or ‘personhood’ represent a series of moves away from the ‘modern’ subject: the fully self-present, though self-doubting, Cartesian subject, the subject who could say with certainty ‘I think therefore I am’.[12] The first move away from the Cartesian subject took place under the influence of sociology. The sociological ‘self’ is shaped significantly by the social and economic environment. In other words, the subject does not arrive in the world fully formed. [13]

The ‘subject’ and the ‘world’ are not distinct. Instead, they are produced, as ‘world’ and as ‘subject’, through social, cultural and particularly political practices. This is often expressed by saying that subject and social order are ‘mutually constituted’ or ‘co-constituted’.[14] The important thing is that neither subject nor environment is ontologically privileged. The subject is not born into a world. The subject produces the world of which it is a part at the same time as it is itself produced. [15]

Several strands of thinking contributed to the move from a Cartesian subject through a sociological subject to a postmodern or poststructural subject. Sigmund Freud observed in his patients and for common phenomena such as dreams, slips of the tongue and jokes, it was helpful to propose that a large part of thinking takes place in a separate realm, which Freud called ‘the unconscious’.[16]

In this realm, to which there is no conscious access, thinking processes are structured very differently. In a second strand of thinking, De Saussure demonstrated that, objects are not presented as distinct, ready for naming.[17] This can be seen by the way in which each language not only names objects differently, but has a distinct set of objects that it enables its speakers to ‘see’. This means that people do not speak language. Rather, language ‘speaks’ people.

Language and discourse

As well as pointing out the importance of language in constituting the world, De Saussure noted that meaning in language depends not on positive value but on differences.[18] Words mean what they do not because of any link in sound with the object they represent but because of the difference between one word and the next. What is said is meaningful because of the associations with what is not said.

A Foucauldian approach is also concerned to demonstrate the continuity between discursive practices and other social practices. Discourse is not confined to written forms or to language in the narrow sense, but extends to all symbolic systems and to any form of social practice that by definition involves such systems.[19] One of Foucault’s key contributions to contemporary thought and political analysis is his demonstration of the way in which knowledge is tied up with the forms of subjectivity or subject-hood to which it gives rise.

He showed this in the case of the penal or prison system. Prisoners were held in cells structured in such a way that each prisoner could be seen by the prison guards at any time, but no prisoner could see another prisoner or the source of surveillance.[20] As a result, prisoners behaved as if they were continuously observed: they disciplined themselves.

Foucault also crucially observed that although prisons always failed in their declared aim of rehabilitation – levels of reoffending by released prisoners were always high – they nevertheless continued as institutions. For Foucault, the crucial question was not ‘Why did they fail?’ but ‘What was their function?’[21] His response was that prisons delineate a class of person – the delinquent – as a distinct group that has no political voice.

Analogous forms of argument and analysis have since been applied to institutions of IR. Third World development is a process that fails to produce its stated result but that continues nevertheless because it serves to delineate certain countries as in need of development and thus intervention.[22]

Power relations and biopolitics

Traditionally power has tended to be thought of as something that can be possessed: states or individuals have power, and some have more than others. Foucault suggests a new way of thinking of power. He argues that power should be seen not as something that preexisting entities possess but as something produced in relationships. Thus Foucault does not speak of ‘power’ but of ‘power relations’.[23] Power is not held centrally but produced in a dispersed way, through a series of power relations that take place on a micro-level during social interactions.

In the Foucauldian view, power is not separate from resistance but rather implies it: were there no resistance, there would be nothing that could properly be called ‘a power relation’.[24]
Foucault argues that sovereign power, which he regards as entailing the power over death – the sovereign can put to death those it chooses – has more recently been supplemented by biopower, the power over life or, more specifically, the power over populations.

ЦBiopower is expressed in disciplinary practices, such as are found in the prison, the barracks, the school or the hospital, and in forms of governmentality.[25] The state increasingly operates through these practices, which are addressed to entire populations, rather than through the direct expression of sovereign power in relation to the individual subject.

 Excess or lack

The lack or the excess can be explained by noting that once something has been named, that something both never lives up to the name it is given and is always more than the name can encompass. For example, if people are described as ‘political activists’, what does that mean?[26] One might say, well, if they are activists, why do they not stand in elections, or go on demonstrations: surely writing letters to one’s representative or delivering election manifestos is not sufficient? Alternatively, the term does not exhaust that which it names. The people concerned are not just activists. Consider all the other things they do, being fathers and mothers and employees, for example.

More broadly, in poststructuralist thought, attention is drawn to the ‘mystical foundation of authority’, the way in which the ‘origin’ of a state or a system of laws is a ‘non-founded founding moment’ that has nothing to rely on to justify or legitimate itself because it is the very point at which the source of law or legitimation will have been established.[27]

One of the features of poststructuralist thinking is the way it questions conceptions of politics and the political. Whereas politics (something that takes place in elections, political parties and government institutions, and forms part of the realm distinguished from the economic or the social) operates within a settled agenda or framework that is taken for granted, the political takes place when that agenda itself is called into question; the political also refers to the processes that take place every day in order to reproduce that order, once established. The political moment is unsettled and unsettling, the moment of excess or of trauma.[28]


[1] Poststructuralism and security. Lene Hansen. http://www.blackwellreference.com/public/tocnode?id=g9781444336597_yr2012_chunk_g978144433659716_ss1-17

[2] What is Poststructuralism? http://www.readysteadybook.com/Article.aspx?page=whatispoststructuralism

[3] What is Poststructuralism? http://www.readysteadybook.com/Article.aspx?page=whatispoststructuralism

[4] Postconstructivism. Griffiths, Martin (ed). International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2007.

[5] Ibid page 88

[6] Ibid page 88

[7] Ibid 89

[8] Ibid 89

[9] Ibid 89

[10] Postconstructivism. Griffiths, Martin (ed). International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2007. Page 89

[11] Ibid 89

[12] Postconstructivism. Griffiths, Martin (ed). International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2007. Page 90

[13] Ibid page 90

[14] Ibid page 90

[15] Ibid page 90

[16] Ibid page 90-91

[17] Ibid 90-91

[18] Ibid page 91

[19] Ibid page 91

[20] Ibid page 91

[21] Ibid page 91

[22] Ibid page 91

[23] Ibid page 91

[24] Ibid page 91

[25] Ibid page 92

[26] Ibid page 93

[27] Ibid page 93

[28] Ibid page 93

13 Theories that View Family as an Agenda

Theory

Key thinkers

Idea

Criticism

1. Structural-functionalism Talcott Parsons Traditional family is the only institution that can perform two core functions in society – Primary Socialization and the Stabilization of Adult Personalities. -Being Out of Date because of the blurred gender roles

-Ignoring the exploitation of women (sexual division of labour in the family)

-Functionalism is too deterministic (ignores the fact that children actively create their own personalities)

 

2. Conflict Theories Marx, Engels, Weber, Habermas, Foucault Family type generally changes with society-more specifically; the nuclear family emerges not because of the needs of industralisation, but because of the needs of the Capitalist system. It socializes people to think in a way that justifies inequality in encourages people to accept that capitalist system.

 

– too deterministic

– ignores family diversity

– feminist argue that the Marxist focus ignores the inequalities between men and women, which is the real source of female oppression

 

3. Modern Conflict theory C. Wright Mills, Alan Sears Societies are defined by inequality that produces conflict. The conflict based on inequality can only be overcome through a fundamental transformation of the existing relations in the society, and is productive of new social relations.

 

 
4. Intersectionality Leslie McCall, Kimberle Crenshaw, Patricia Hill Collins We should think of each element or trait of a person as inextricably linked with all of the other elements in order to fully understand one’s identity.  
5. Identity Politics L.A. Kauffman, Jeffrey Week, Ken Plummer, Barbara Smith Only those experiencing a particular form of oppression can either define it or fight against it. People’s politics may be shaped by aspects of their identity through correlated social organization.

 

-groups based on shared identity , other than class, can divert energy and attention from more fundamental issues, such as class conflict in capitalist societies.

– identity politics are just other versions of bourgeois nationalism.

 

6. Social Exchange Theory George Homans,

Peter M. Blau, Richard M. Emerson.

 

Every individual tries to maximize his wins. Social exchange process brings satisfaction when people receive fair returns for their expenditures.

Formula to measure the choice making processes: rewards-costs=outcomes

Or (what I get out of it – what I lose by doing it=my decision)

 

 
7. The postmodern perspective Stacey, Nareven 2 key characteristics:

-diversity and fragmentation

-rapid social change

idea: individuals in postmodern society have much more freedom of choice in aspects of their lives.

 

-even though people have more freedom, there is a still a structure, which shapes people’s decisions.

-Contemporary Feminists disagree with Postmodernism, pointing out that in most cases traditional gender roles, which disadvantage women, remain the norm.

 

8. The New Right view Charles Murray Traditional and conventional nuclear family is the only one correct, based on fundamental biological differences between men and women.

 

-It Is patriarchal – the family is male dominant. Feminists argue that this is negative for women.

-Its harmful to call other family-types ‘inadequate’ – schools, advertisements and television reinforce this idea.

 

9. Liberal Feminism John Stuart Mill, Mary Wollstonecraft Equal opportunity via fair opportunity and equal political rights. Distinction between the public and private realms.  
10. Libertarian feminism Tonie Nathan, Wendy McElroy Individualist feminism encourages women to take full responsibility for their own lives.  
11. Anarcho-feminism Lucia Sanchez Saornil Patriarchy is a manifestation of involuntary coercive hierarchy that should be replaced by decentralized free association.  

 

 

 

12. Queer Theory Michel Foucault, Michael Warner

 

Idea: Gender is part of the essential self.

Developed out of an examination of perceived limitations in the traditional identity politics of recognition and self-identity.

 

-written by a narrow elite for that narrow elite. Class biased.

-doesn’t refer to any specific status or gender object choice.

 

 

13. Standpoint Theory
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

 

The theory strives to understand the world from the standpoint of women and other marginalized groups in society. The more authority an individual possesses, the more they have when implementing their viewpoints on the world. Key concept: women.

 

– Contains a problematic emphasis on the universality of this experience, at the expense of differences among women’s experiences.
– opens the possibility of an overbalance of power, in which the oppressed group intentionally or unintentionally becomes the oppressor.

 

Feminism as a Theory of International Relations

Creating feminist IR

The year 1988 marked an important milestone. At that time the second wave of women’s movement activism was at its height in many countries, raising individual consciousnesses of women, transforming state policies concerning conditions of paid and unpaid work, shining light on the power dynamics inside marriages, political parties, legislatures, courts and peace movements, and converting acts of male violence against women from a private problem into a public issue.[1]

By the late 1980s, new Women’s Studies journals such as Signs, Women’s Studies International Forum, The Women’s Review of Books and Feminist Review had been created, attracting manuscripts from scholars working in history, literature, sociology, art history and anthropology. [2] While some courses in ‘Women and Politics’ had been created by individual academics as early as the mid-1970s, and while there had been moves by feminist-informed political scientists to organize women’s caucuses inside professional groups such as The American Political Science Association, little was being done in the late 1980s to bring feminist ideas into the field of IR, which appeared to be a fortress of intellectual and professional resistance to feminist insights into the workings of power. [3]

The BISA, along with the US-based International Studies Association (ISA), had become the institutional arena for determining what would be taken seriously in the scholarly study of IR. [4]
The next step in creating ‘feminist IR’ was to open up a professional space for feminist IR. That meant persuading the association’s officers to open up new panel sessions and to acknowledge that feminist issues could be ‘counted’ as IR.[5] Fifteen years later, when thousands of academics were preparing for the ISA’s 2004 annual conference in Montreal, Quebec, there was a Women’s Caucus, now operating inside the ISA, to monitor and challenge academic sexism in the ISA.[6]

Second, the Feminist Theory and Gender Section (FTGS) of the ISA had been institutionalized, helping to mentor younger scholars, encourage participation by feminist in formed scholars in the running of the ISA, sponsor papers and panels at meetings, and to broaden the cultural and geographic profile of feminist IR specialists beyond its largely white and US–British female base[7].

Third, prior to the 2004 ISA conference, 18 full panels were proposed for FTGS sponsorship, while an additional 81 individual papers were proposed on gender, feminism and IR.[8]
In 1999, members of FTGS had also launched a new journal, The International Feminist Journal of Politics (IFPS). The new journal was to serve as a place where the diverse interactions of gender and power would be explored.[9] The journal’s founders decided that there should be a three-person senior editorial team, not just a single editor; each of the three core editors would be based in a different geographic region, so as to structurally push the IFJP to adopt a genuinely global approach to the creation and distribution of new knowledge.[10]

Feminist approaches to study IR

Feminist perspectives on international relations have proliferated in the last ten years, yet they remain marginal to the discipline as a whole, and there has been little engagement between feminists and international relations (IR) scholars. According to Francis Fukuyama, Feminists and IR scholars frequently talk about different worlds and use different methodologies to understand them. [11]

A different kind of misunderstanding, also prevalent, arises from the fact that talking about gender involves issues of personal identity that can be very threatening, even in academic discourse. Feminists are frequently challenged by their critics for seeming to imply (even if it is not their intention) that women are somehow “better” than men.
In IR, this often comes down to accusations that feminists are implying  women are more peaceful than men or that a world run by women would be less violent and morally superior. Critics will support their challenges by reference to female policymakers, such as Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, or Indira Gandhi, who, they claim, behaved exactly like men.

As with many theories, “feminist theory” reflects on a wide range of perspectives generating many internal debates concerning how it should be represented.[12]

Standpoint feminist theory considers how

“the gendered construction of knowledge…[helps to] understand traditional topics in international relations” and is “alerting us to the idea that gender may be structuring how we think in the international context.”[13]

Tickner argues that IR is gendered to “marginalize women’s voices,” and stresses

“women have knowledge, perspectives and experiences that should be brought to bear on the study of international relations.” [14]

For example, Tickner would argue that security, a main topic in IR, should not only be understood as “defending the state from attack,” but should also consider that security for women

“might be different because women are more likely to be attacked by men they know, rather than strangers from other states.”[15]

In other words, in contrast to traditional IR views that view security as protecting the state from other states, feminists argue the topic of security should address acts of rape and violence, not only from foreign perpetrators, but from their own fellow citizens as well.

Feminists point out that, speaking for the study of problems of safety of the women’s point of view, they do not infringe on the rights of men. On the contrary, they hope that the example of women – the most oppressed part of the population – can be convincingly prove the necessity of development of new concepts of individual and global security, based on non-hierarchical principles.[16]

Feminists-postmodernists see a way out of this impasse in modern policy and science on how to get rid of such categories as «nation-state», «national» or «state sovereignty», «national interests», «national security», etc.[17] And instead should, be formed a «global civil society», in which there will be no place for the nationalist prejudice, or discrimination on the ground of gender.

Similarities between poststructuralism and feminism in IR

The connection between theory and political praxis within feminism has always been close. Feminism has been understood to imply a political project of empowerment, connected with the emancipatory impulse of liberal-humanism and Marxism, and an epistemological project rooted in Enlightenment rationalism and universalism.[18]

During the 1980’s these canons within feminist theory have been influenced by a set of poststructuralist discourses radically questioning its inherent epistemological rationalism and universalism as well as its ontological essentialism. [19]
Whilst all feminists are aimed at identifying and defending equal opportunities for women, how this is interpreted has developed and fragmented over the years to the effect that feminism is now a relatively complex structure of overlapping ideas and concepts. [20]

Post-structuralism can be applied to be many things and fundamentally believes that our interpretation of what is right comes from our own experiences and interpretations. As such, it can never be entirely objective. This is why there are so many different beliefs in the world, because all those millions of people have completely different experiences and societal influences. Post-structural theory takes a particular interest in language as this is how we communicate our experiences. As such, language shapes the way  we see the world. [21]

Feminist post-structuralism looks philosophically at the way in which women are treated in the world and attempts to break down barriers by identifying how societal influences have led to the status quo. It is a rather less militant branch of the movement, seeking to make change by demonstrating that equality is invariably a product of the environment and that by shaping that environment, equality can quite easily be addressed.[22]
Speaking about similarities of Feminism and Post structuralism in IR, it can be said that both of them are critical to existing state affairs and both make deal with power and dominance.

Power in private spaces and power in public spaces: feminist concern

Feminist investigations by academic and activist researchers have revealed that many forms of public power and private power are dependent for their operation, legitimization and perpetuation on controlling the thoughts and bodies of women and on controlling notions of femininity and masculinity. Women have been left out of the most influential studies of IR because so many investigators have presumed that women are inconsequential in the public arena.[23]

Women’s history demands a global perspective. There’s far more to it than Queen Elizabeth I.[24] We need to refocus historical attention from the school of “famous women” (often royal females) to encompass broader groupings of women with power: clan mothers and female elders; priestesses, diviners, medicine women and healers; market women, weavers, and other female arts and professions. These “female spheres of power,”[25] vary greatly from culture to culture. Some of them, particularly the spiritual callings, retain aspects of women’s self-determination even in societies that insist on formal subordination of female to male in private and public space.

The debate on what is the place and role of women in modern society stimulated analysis of the use of women, the position of women in the family, at work, the necessity of women’s political activity. [26] It is impossible to divide the public and private spheres of life or liability; the house and the state are interdependent and mutually influence each other. [27]

«The separation of the private and the public, which is typical for all modern societies, is a structural basis of gender relations. Private sphere is a traditional area of the women’s world». [28]

«In an ideal world, the world of private – this is the world of sweet home, life, soaked in the culture of the spiritual work of the previous generations, atmosphere of love, peace agreement, from which the cruelty is expelled». [29]

Public power requires a woman to be strong and in many ways be better than a man. Today we see how women make their own laws and take high positions in government.


Non-feminist approach to IR and a concept of patriarchal state

A principal shortcoming in the conventional, non-feminist approach to international politics, according to feminist students of IR, is its practitioners’ tendency to assume that states are the natural actors, coupled with a presumption that states speak for the nations they claim to rule.[30] In contrast, a feminist analysis questions not only the ‘naturalness’ of states, but that of nations too.

Feminist informed, investigations of societies have revealed that both the state and the nation have been constructed out of particular ideas about femininity and masculinity. The building blocks include ideas about femininity that have been wielded in ways to marginalize women in state affairs, as well as in nation-building movements. [31]

Where women have become prominent in the decision-making circles of a state or a nationalist movement it is usually because some women have organized to force open those spaces in the masculinized leadership. Thus, feminist political analysis takes seriously the ways those ideas about ‘motherhood’, ‘sexual purity’, ‘the good wife’ and ‘family stability’ shape policy making within nationalist movements, political parties and state institutions.[32]

Patriarchy is a societal system of structures and beliefs that sustains the privileging of masculinity. Feminists do not automatically assume that every state at every stage of its evolution is patriarchal, but they approach every state as problematic. The state is neither natural nor inevitable. [33]

Patriarchy is based on a system of power relations which are hierarchical and unequal where men control women’s production, reproduction and sexuality. It imposes masculinity and femininity character stereotypes in society which strengthen the iniquitous power relations between men and women. [34] Patriarchy within a particular caste or class also differs in terms of their religious and regional variations. Similarly subordination of women in developed countries is different from what it is in developing countries.

While subordination of women may differ in terms of its nature, certain characteristics such as control over women’s sexuality and her reproductive power cuts across class, caste, ethnicity, religions and regions and is common to all patriarchies.[35]

“Patriarchal ideas blur the distinction between sex and gender and assume that all socio-economic and political distinctions between men and women are rooted in biology or anatomy”.[36]


[1] Griffiths, Martin (ed). International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2007. Page 107

[2] Ibid page 107

[3] Ibid page 107

[4] Ibid page 108

[5] Ibid page 108

[6] Ibid 108

[7] Ibid 108

[8] Ibid 108

[9] Griffiths, Martin (ed). International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2007. Page 109

[10] Ibid page 109-110

[11]Why women can’t run the world: international politics according to Francis Fukuyama. http://web.centre.edu/lorihm/tickner.pdf

[12]Feminist Theory and International Relations: The Feminist Challenge to Realism and Liberalism http://www.csustan.edu/honors/documents/journals/soundings/Ruiz.pdf

[13] Lorraine Code. Encyclopedia of Feminist Theories. (London; New York: Routledge, 2002), 273, Netlibrary/eBook Collection (29 November 2003).

[14] Feminist Theory and International Relations: The Feminist Challenge to Realism and Liberalism  http://www.csustan.edu/honors/documents/journals/soundings/Ruiz.pdf

[15] Lorraine Code. Encyclopedia of Feminist Theories. (London; New York: Routledge, 2002), 273, Netlibrary/eBook Collection (29 November 2003).

[16] Феминизм в современных международных отношениях. http://bibliofond.ru/view.aspx?id=560106

[17] Феминизм в современных международных отношениях. http://bibliofond.ru/view.aspx?id=560106

[18] Hekman, S. (1990) Gender and Knowledge: Elements of a Postmodern Feminism. Cambridge: Polity.

[19] Feminist politics after Poststructuralism. http://dspace.ruc.dk/bitstream/1800/1126/1/Feminist_politics_after.pdf

[20] What is feminist post-structuralism? http://www.helium.com/items/2092463-what-is-feminist-post-structuralism

[21] What is feminist post-structuralism? http://www.helium.com/items/2092463-what-is-feminist-post-structuralism

[22] What is feminist post-structuralism? http://www.helium.com/items/2092463-what-is-feminist-post-structuralism

[23] Feminism. Griffiths, Martin (ed). International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2007.

[24] Women power. http://www.suppressedhistories.net/articles/women_power.html

[25] Women power. http://www.suppressedhistories.net/articles/women_power.html

[26] Публичные и приватные сферы как основа гендерной стратификации.http://soc-work.ru/article/400

[27] http://soc-work.ru/article/400

[28] Здравомыслова Е. и Темкина А. Введение // Хрестоматия феминистских текстов. Переводы / Под ред. Е. Здравомысловой и А.Темкиной. СПб., 2000. С. 5.

[29] Климова С.В. Дом и мир: проблема приватного и публичного // http://anthropology.ru.

[30] Feminism. Griffiths, Martin (ed). International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2007.

[31] Ibid page 105

[32] Ibid page 105

[33] Ibid page 106

[34]Understanding patriarchy. http://www.du.ac.in/fileadmin/DU/Academics/course_material/hrge_06.pdf

[35] Understanding patriarchy.http://www.du.ac.in/fileadmin/DU/Academics/course_material/hrge_06.pdf

[36] Heywood, Andrew, Political Ideologies: An Introduction, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Constructivism as a Тheory of International Relations

The fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union signified the end of the Cold War. The peaceful end changed not only the world order, but also debates in international relation’s theories.[1] The end offered a challenge for constructivists to understand. Wendt said :

“material structure can have sui generis effects…, [t]he Cold War was fundamentally a discursive, not a material, structure.” [2].

The Cold War could be over if the US and Soviet Union did not perceive each other as enemies.[3] Change could grow from below. It was possible for states to reinvent their identities and consciously transform their international roles, and subsequently change the world order.

The central tenet of Constructivism is that most or even all important elements of international politics are the products of specific social circumstances and historical processes, rather than being inevitable consequences of the human’s nature or the nature of politics. This willingness to see international relations as socially constructed, sets constructivism apart from traditional approaches to realism and liberalism.[4]

The belief that reality is socially constructed leads constructivists to place a greater role on norm development, identity, and ideational power than the other major theoretical paradigms. Indeed, norms, identity, and ideas are key factors in constructivist theory.
Constructivism – whether as a mode of instruction or a school of thought on how the world is known by the observer – has a long and diverse history.


The Rise of Constructivism in International Relations

In the 1980s, constructivism has become an increasingly significant approach, especially in North American IR. During the Cold War there was a clear pattern of power balancing between two blocs, led by the United States and the Soviet Union respectively. [6]
After the end of the Cold War and following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the situation turned much more fluid and open.
The historical context, i.e., the end of the Cold War, and the theoretical discussion between IR scholars, especially among neo-realists and liberals helped set the stage for a constructivist approach. And constructivism became especially popular among North American scholars, because that environment was dominated by the neorealist/neoliberal approaches. [7]

Constructivism has deeper roots. It is not an entirely new approach. It also grows out of an old methodology that can be traced back at least to the eighteenth–century writings of the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico[8]. According to Vico, the natural world is made by God, but the historical world is made by Man. History is not some kind of unfolding or evolving process that is external to human affairs. Men and women make their own history.

Social Constructivism, it can be argued, can be traced to the times of Aristotle, in his argument that man is naturally a political animal ‘zoon politikon’.[9] He argued that attempts to derive knowledge about politics from the endowments and behaviour of man in-isolation are misguided; He contended that man cannot exist outside a social context. Social Constructivist appears to have accepted Aristotle’s argument that political actors are influenced by the social context they inhabit. [10]

Constructivism was introduced to IR by Nicholas Onuf who coined the term. It gathered a larger following among scholars with a series of influential articles and a book by Alexander Wendt, who is the best-known advocate of Social constructivism in the field of international relations. [11]


Distinguishing features of Constructivism

Constructivism refers to,

“the philosophical belief that people construct their own understanding of reality” [12].

Rather than assimilate a body of knowledge about one’s world and environment, constructivists believe we ‘construct’ meaning based upon our interactions with our surroundings. These interactions provide the evidence and the opportunities for experimentation with the world and thus, construct our realities. [13] In its most radical form, constructivists believe that there is no reality saves for what we create with our own minds.

Constructivism is both a social theory and a number of different substantive theories of IR.[14]  According to constructivist philosophy, the social world is not a given: it is not something ‘out there’ that exists independent, out of the thoughts and ideas of the people involved in it. Everything involved in the social world of men and women is made by them. The fact that it is made by them makes it intelligible to them. The social world is a world of human consciousness: of thoughts and beliefs, of ideas and concepts, of languages and discourses, of signs, signals and understandings among human beings, especially groups of human beings, such as states and nations. [15]

Wendt mentions ‘material resources’ among those elements that constitute social structures [16]; in that sense materialism is a part of constructivism. But it is the ideas and beliefs concerning those entities which are most important: what those entities signify in the minds of people?!
The international system of security and defence, for example, consists of territories, populations, weapons and other physical assets. But it is the ideas and understandings according to which those assets are conceived, organized and used—e.g., in alliances, armed forces and so on—that is most important.[17]

Wendt illustrates the constructivist view with the following statement:

“500 British nuclear weapons are less threatening to the United States than 5 North Korean nuclear weapons’ because ‘the British are friends and the North Koreans are not’[18].”

That is to say, it is less the material fact of numbers of nuclear warheads that matter. What matters is how the actors think about each other, i.e. their ideas and beliefs. Material facts enter the picture but they are secondary to ideas.[19]

It is suggested by von Glasersfeld that constructivism can only be understood though considering both ontology and epistemology. Ontology refers to issues concerning the nature of being and seeks to answer the questions: What is being? What is the nature of reality? Is there a reality? [20]
Idealism, a branch of ontology, views reality as something that can only exist in ideas or ideals. The Idealists’ assertion is that no claims about external realities can be made because they are observer-dependent and not absolute.

Epistemology, the second philosophical root of constructivism, pertains to the origin, foundation, limits, and validity of knowledge. Central questions of epistemology include: What is knowledge?, Where does knowledge come from?, How much does the knower contribute to the knowing process?. [21] Epistemology deals with the transmission of knowledge.


Modern and Postmodern Consrtuctivism

The constructivist school is broadly divided into two streams: modern and post-modern constructivism. The two approaches are also sometimes referred to as conventional and critical constructivism. Both adopt an ontological position and that ontology is necessarily prior to epistemology, as analysis cannot be divorced from the reality it seeks to account for.

The ontological position of constructivism in IR doesn’t

“…deny the phenomenal reality of material processes”[22]

but asserts that actor response to such material concerns are wholly determined by the shared meaning structures through which they are necessarily perceived.
Modern and post-modern constructivism most critically differs fundamentally with regards to epistemology.[23]
Post-modern constructivists, wholly reject the positivist notions of the existence of neutral observable social fact and the possibility of empirical analysis; while claims diverge on the matter on how analysis should proceed and what the purpose of scientific enquiry thus need to be. Post-modern constructivism in its essence is a post-positivist theory itself.

Modern constructivism – viewed as negotiated empiricism. This approach suggests that, despite a broadly constitutive ontological stance, and despite the inherent flaws of empiricism, knowledge acquisition through subject observation is still the best means available of pursuing scientific progress.[24] Modern constructivists, in contrast to the rigid empiricism of mainstream theories, believe that both material and ideational dimensions of international activity are “observable”. [25]


Norms and Ideas

At the heart of constructivist thought is the notion of the latent presence of norms in any social activity, including international relations. Norms, constructivists suggest, however, cannot be understood in isolation from ideas, as ideas constitute the essential building-blocks from which norms are derived. [26]

Ideas are

“beliefs about right and wrong held by individuals”, while norms are “collective expectations about proper behavior for a given identity”.[27]

Norms are considered the fundamental determinants within all global politics, because actors are group entities – a collection of individuals – and IR is concerned interactions between such groups, hence, action and interaction, constructivists propose, will be influenced by the nature and extent of shared norms. [28]


Identities, interests and action

The notion of identity and its relationship with interests, builds upon constructivist notion of ideas and norms. The relationship is of critical importance because it constitutes the root of all action. It specifies the exact nature of the link between norms and action, providing a compelling rationale for how and why norms have the power to determine action.[29]

Identities, constructivists suggest, are the basis of interests. This is because constructivists assert that

“… the question of ‘what am I?’ is both logically and ontologically prior to the question of ‘what do I want?’” [30].

According to constructivists

“explanations based primarily on interests and the material distribution of power cannot fully account for important international phenomena and that analysis of the social construction of state identities ought to precede, and may even explain, the genesis of state interests”.[31]

Wendt discusses what kind of anarchy (or cultures of anarchy) that will prevail, depends on “how (actors) construe their identity in relation to others”. [32]
In Wendt’s analysis, “interests presuppose identities because an actor cannot know what it wants until it knows who it is”[33], which in turn depends on their social relationships.[34]

Therefore, identities become crucial in constructivist analysis because they provide the basis for interests. States

“do not have a ‘portfolio’ of interests that they carry around independent of social context; instead, they define their interests in the process of defining situations”[35].

Constructivists focus on constitutive processes and argue that identities are always in the process of being formed and reformed. [36]


The relationship between agents and structures

The constructivist attention to the social construction of interests and identities introduces the more general problem of the relationship between structures and agents.[37] By “structures” it means the institutions and shared meanings that make up the context of international action, and by “agents” means any entity that operates as an actor in that context.

The co-constitution of states and structures goes beyond recognizing that there are interaction effects between the unit and the system level.[38] In Theory of International Politics, Waltz suggested that two states interacting in anarchy are

“not just influencing the other” by their actions; “both are being influenced by the situation their interaction creates” [39].

A constructivist approach to co-constitution, by contrast, suggests that the actions of states contribute to making the institutions and norms of international life, and these institutions and norms contribute to defining, socializing, and influencing states. Both the institutions and the actors can be redefined in the process.
The recognition of mutual constitution is an important contribution to the theory of international relations, because many interesting empirical phenomena in international relations are understandable only by a methodology that avoids assuming a neat separation between agents and structures.[40]

Actors develop their relations with, and understandings of, others through the media of norms and practices. In the absence of norms, exercises of power, or actions, would be devoid of meaning. Constitutive norms define an identity by specifying the actions that will cause others to recognize that identity and respond to it appropriately.[41] Since structure is meaningless without some inter subjective set of norms and practices, anarchy, mainstream international relations theory’s most crucial structural component, is meaningless. [42]


Constructivists and globalization

Social Constructivism plays a key role in enabling us to understand the complexities of globalization because it provides us with a particular lens that permits to interpret globalization in distinctive ways and which leads us to question it in a different way.

Globalization is a changing concept. There is no final or definitive answer. Interconnectedness of the world is similar to the World Wide Web (www), because it signifies societies in a web. For instance, the flow of ideas, criminal activities, goods, images, weapons and a worldwide flows of capital and so forth.[43] This in turn, means that developments in one part of the world can come to have consequences in another region of the planet by affecting the life chances of individuals and communities in different areas.

Therefore Social Constructivism aids us by providing a discourse about international reality which we can be used to understand the social construction of reality. More importantly, a social constructivist’ understanding of globalization emphasizes the non-material forces at work here and focuses on the process of meaning construction and interpretation as constitutive for globalization.“Globalization” as a discourse reifies globalization as a social structure. [44]

To be a constructivist in international relations means looking at international relations with an eye open to the social construction of actors, institutions, and events. It means beginning from the assumption that how people and states think and behave in world politics is premised on their understanding of the world around them, which includes their own beliefs about the world, the identities they hold about themselves and others, and the shared understandings and practices in which they participate.[45]

Material structure, international social structures, and domestic politics, all together construct the world’s politics and economy and construct relations among states. Material and discursive power play and direct the drama of international relations. Complex world needs complex theory to understand. Constructivism offers itself to meet such demand. The Constructivist Turn does not only color and construct the debates in international relations theories, but also construct the international social system.[46]


 

[1] Ganjar Nugroho, “Constructivism and International Relations Theories ”, Global & Strategis, Th. II, No. 1, Januari-Juni 2008, hlm. 85-98. http://journal.unair.ac.id/filerPDF/6%20constructivism-final%20edit%20OK.pdf

[2] Ganjar Nugroho, “Constructivism and International Relations Theories ”, Global & Strategis, Th. II, No. 1, Januari-Juni 2008, hlm. 85-98. http://journal.unair.ac.id/filerPDF/6%20constructivism-final%20edit%20OK.pdf

[3] Ibid page 85-98

[4] Constructivism: International Relations Theory in Brief. http://www.bukisa.com/articles/335688_constructivism-international-relations-theory-in-brief

[5] Jonathan Cristol. “Constructivism” Article.  10101 words.   http://oxfordindex.oup.com/view/10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0061

[6] Jackson&Sorensen. Introduction to International Relations. Social Constructivism. http://e-edu.nbu.bg/pluginfile.php/147644/mod_resource/content/0/jackson_sorensen_Intro_in_IR_chap06.pdf

[7] Jackson&Sorensen. Introduction to International Relations. Social Constructivism. http://e-edu.nbu.bg/pluginfile.php/147644/mod_resource/content/0/jackson_sorensen_Intro_in_IR_chap06.pdf

[8] Giambattista Vico,  (born June 23, 1668, Naples [Italy]—died January 23, 1744, Naples), Italian philosopher of cultural history and law. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/627497/Giambattista-Vico

[9] Aristotle on Politics. Man is political animal. http://suite101.com/article/aristotle-on-politics–man-is-a-political-animal-a244832

[10]The contributions of social constructivism in political science. Ronald Elly Wanda. http://www.academia.edu/664945/THE_CONTRIBUTIONS_OF_SOCIAL_CONSTRUCTIVISM_IN_POLITICAL_SCIENCE

[11] Jackson&Sorensen. Introduction to International Relations. Social Constructivism. http://e-edu.nbu.bg/pluginfile.php/147644/mod_resource/content/0/jackson_sorensen_Intro_in_IR_chap06.pdf

[12] Constructivism: Pre-historical to Post-modern. William R. Warrick. George Mason University. http://mason.gmu.edu/~wwarrick/Portfolio/Products/constructivism.html

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[18] Wendt, A., 1995. “Constructing International Politics”. International Security, Vol. 20 (1) http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu/hpschmitz/PSC124/PSC124Readings/WendtConstructivism.pdf

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[20] Jackson&Sorensen. Introduction to International Relations. Social Constructivism. http://e-edu.nbu.bg/pluginfile.php/147644/mod_resource/content/0/jackson_sorensen_Intro_in_IR_chap06.pdf

[21] Jackson&Sorensen. Introduction to International Relations. Social Constructivism. http://e-edu.nbu.bg/pluginfile.php/147644/mod_resource/content/0/jackson_sorensen_Intro_in_IR_chap06.pdf

[22] Phillips, A.B., 2007. “Constructivism”, in Griffiths, M. (ed.), International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century: An introduction. Routledge, Abingdon. Page 62

[23] Barkin, J.S., 2003. “Realist Constructivism”. International Studies Review, Vol. 5(3) page 326-327

[24] Bakin, J.S., 2003. “Realist Constructivism”. International Studies Review, Vol. 5(3) page 326-327

[25] Farrell, T., 2002. “Constructivist Security Studies: Portrait of a Research program”. International Studies Review, Vol. 4 (1) page 60-61

[26] Constructivism as a basis for understanding transnational terrorism: the case of Al Qaeda. David Schild. https://ujdigispace.uj.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10210/4228/Schild.pdf?sequence=3

[27] Constructivism as a basis for understanding transnational terrorism: the case of Al Qaeda. David Schild. https://ujdigispace.uj.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10210/4228/Schild.pdf?sequence=3

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[29] Constructivism as a basis for understanding transnational terrorism: the case of Al Qaeda. David Schild. https://ujdigispace.uj.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10210/4228/Schild.pdf?sequence=3

[30] Phillips, A.B., 2007. “Constructivism”, in Griffiths, M. (ed.), International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century: An introduction. Routledge, Abingdon. Page 62

[31] Mlada Bukovansky, ‘American Identity and Neutral Rights from Independence to the War of 1812’, International Organization, Vol. 51, No. 2, 1997, pp. 209-243, p. 209.

[32] Maja Zehfuss, ‘Constructivism and Identity: A Dangerous Liaison’, European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2001, pp. 315-348, p. 318.

[33] Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, p. 231.

[34] Ron Jepperson, Alexander Wendt and Peter Katzenstein, ‘Norms, Identity, and Culture in National Security’, Peter Katzenstein (ed.), The Culture of National Security, (New York: Colombia University Press, 1996), pp. 33-75, p. 59.

[35] Wendt, ‘Anarchy is What States Make of It’, p. 396.

[36] Atkinson, ‘Constructivist Implications of Material Power’, p. 534.

[37] Smit-Snidal. Typeset by Spi, Delhi 298 of 316 January 18, 2008. “Constructivism” chapter 17.

[38] Smit-Snidal. Typeset by Spi, Delhi 298 of 316 January 18, 2008. “Constructivism” chapter 17.

[39] Smit-Snidal. Typeset by Spi, Delhi 298 of 316 January 18, 2008. “Constructivism” chapter 17.

[40] Smit-Snidal. Typeset by Spi, Delhi 298 of 316 January 18, 2008. “Constructivism” chapter 17.

[41] Ronald L. Jepperson, Alexander Wendt, and Peter J. Katzenstein, “Norms, Identity, and Culture in National Security,” in Katzenstein, The Culture of National Security, p. 54.

[42] The Promise of Constructivism in International Relations Theory http://asrudiancenter.wordpress.com/2008/06/26/the-promise-of-constructivism-in-international-relations-theory/

[43] Constructivism as a basis for understanding transnational terrorism: the case of Al Qaeda. David Schild. https://ujdigispace.uj.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10210/4228/Schild.pdf?sequence=3

[44] Constructivism as a basis for understanding transnational terrorism: the case of Al Qaeda. David Schild. https://ujdigispace.uj.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10210/4228/Schild.pdf?sequence=3

[45] Smit-Snidal. Typeset by Spi, Delhi 298 of 316 January 18, 2008. “Constructivism” chapter 17.

[46] Ganjar Nugroho, “Constructivism and International Relations Theories ”, Global & Strategis, Th. II, No. 1, Januari-Juni 2008, hlm. 85-98. http://journal.unair.ac.id/filerPDF/6%20constructivism-final%20edit%20OK.pdf