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Constructivism

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Baylis, Smith & Owens:
The Globalization of World Politics 5e
Chapter 9
Social Constructivism
Introduction
• IR in the 1980s dominated by theories
that ascribed to materialism and
individualism
• End of cold war: new intellectual space
• Scholars began to use critical and
sociological theories to examine effects
of normative structure and identity
Constructivism
• Concerned with human consciousness
• Treats ideas as structural factors
• Considers dynamic relationship
between ideas and material forces as a
consequence of how actors interpret
their material reality
• Interested in how agents produce
structures and structures produce
agents
Constructivism
• Key: Knowledge shapes how actors
interpret and construct their social
reality
• Normative structure shapes identity and
interests of actors
• Social facts (sovereignty, human rights)
exist because of human agreement
Constructivism
• Meanings aren’t always fixed
• Social rules
– Regulative: manage existing activities
– Constitutive: define and produce those
very activities
• Denaturalizes what is taken for granted
Constructivism
• Asks questions about origins of what is
accepted
• Considers alternative pathways
• Power: not only the ability of one actor
to get another actor to do what she
would not do otherwise
– Also the production of identities and
interests that limit actors’ ability to control
their fate

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Constructivism

  • 1. Baylis, Smith & Owens: The Globalization of World Politics 5e Chapter 9 Social Constructivism
  • 2. Introduction • IR in the 1980s dominated by theories that ascribed to materialism and individualism • End of cold war: new intellectual space • Scholars began to use critical and sociological theories to examine effects of normative structure and identity
  • 3. Constructivism • Concerned with human consciousness • Treats ideas as structural factors • Considers dynamic relationship between ideas and material forces as a consequence of how actors interpret their material reality • Interested in how agents produce structures and structures produce agents
  • 4. Constructivism • Key: Knowledge shapes how actors interpret and construct their social reality • Normative structure shapes identity and interests of actors • Social facts (sovereignty, human rights) exist because of human agreement
  • 5. Constructivism • Meanings aren’t always fixed • Social rules – Regulative: manage existing activities – Constitutive: define and produce those very activities • Denaturalizes what is taken for granted
  • 6. Constructivism • Asks questions about origins of what is accepted • Considers alternative pathways • Power: not only the ability of one actor to get another actor to do what she would not do otherwise – Also the production of identities and interests that limit actors’ ability to control their fate
  • 7. Constructivism and Global Change • Investigates global change and transformation • Diffusion: concerned with institutional isomorphism and life cycle of norms – Adopted sometimes because of superiority of model – But sometimes because of external pressure and incentives • Raises issues of growing homogeneity, deepening international community, & socialization