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Chapter

Cover Contemporary Security Studies

6. Social Constructivism  

Christine Agius

This chapter examines the impact of social constructivism on Security Studies, and how it calls into question the assumed orthodoxy of rationalist approaches to security and the international system by asking how security and security threats are ‘socially constructed’. It focuses on the importance of social relations and why identity, norms, and culture matter. Whereas rationalist approaches focus on material forces to understand and theorize security, social constructivism argues that ideational as well as material factors construct the world around us and the meanings we give to it. Therefore, its significance for Security Studies is crucial in terms not only of conceptualizing security but of providing alternative readings of security. However, constructivism is not a uniform approach. As this chapter demonstrates, it is broadly divided into two camps, which differ on questions of methodology and particular aspects of how knowledge and identity are interrogated. Throughout this chapter case studies of constructivist approaches to security questions will be discussed, and the chapter concludes with a consideration of critiques of constructivism.

Chapter

Cover Contemporary Security Studies

4. Historical Materialism  

Eric Herring

This chapter begins with an overview of the social scientific, philosophical, and political dimensions of historical materialism (HM). This overview is followed by an elaboration of what HM involves, including its diversity, value, and potential but avoidable pitfalls. Key HM concepts are set out and used to show how capitalism generally and in its recent neoliberal form aims to generate insecurity for labour and security for capital. Rather than being a narrow approach to security that focuses on economics, at its best, HM is a holistic approach that provides a way of putting into perspective and relating the many components of security. It goes on to explore the relationships between HM and approaches to security in wider contexts (realism, liberalism, social constructivism, and gender) and then to various perspectives on security (securitization and the sectoral approach, peace studies, Critical Security Studies, and human security). Accompanying the text are Think Point 4.1 on using HM to understand arms production and the arms trade, and Think Point 4.2 on using HM to understand the connections between development and security. The conclusion provides an overall assessment of the contribution of HM to the scholarship and politics of security and insecurity.

Chapter

Cover Contemporary Security Studies

7. Critical Security Studies: A Schismatic History  

Mutimer David and Derek Verbakel

This chapter provides a partial history of a label. It is partial both in that it is not, and cannot be, complete, and in that I, David Mutimer, am both the author of, and participant in, the history. It is therefore partial in the way all other history is partial. The label is ‘Critical Security Studies’. The chapter tells a story of the origin of the label and the way it has developed and fragmented since the early 1990s. It sets out the primary claims of the major divisions that have emerged within the literatures to which the label has been applied: constructivism, critical theory, and poststructuralism. Ultimately, the chapter suggests that Critical Security Studies needs to foster an ‘ethos of critique’ in either the study or refusal of security, and that the chapter is an instance of that ethos directed at Critical Security Studies itself.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches

1. Why Study IR?  

Introduction to International Relations provides a concise introduction to the principal international relations theories and approaches, and explores how theory can be used to analyse contemporary issues. Throughout the text, the chapters encourage readers to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the theories presented, and the major points of contention between them. In so doing, the text helps you to build a clear understanding of how major theoretical debates link up with each other, and how the structure of the discipline of international relations is established. The book places a strong emphasis throughout on the relationship between theory and practice, carefully explaining how theories organise and shape our view of the world. It also shows how a historical perspective can often refine theories and provide a frame of reference for contemporary problems of international relations. Topics include realism, liberalism, International Society, International Political Economy, social constructivism, post-positivism in international relations, major issues in IPE and IR, and foreign policy. Each chapter ends by discussing how different theories have attempted to integrate or combine international and domestic factors in their explanatory frameworks. The final chapter is dedicated to discussing the state of the world: are we seeing world chaos or world order? The text is accompanied by an Online Resource Centre, which includes: short case studies, review questions, annotated web links, and a flashcard glossary.

Chapter

Cover European Union Politics

18. Enlargement  

Ana E. Juncos and Nieves Pérez-Solórzano Borragán

The process of enlargement has transformed the European Union. It has had far-reaching implications for the shape and definition of Europe, and for the institutional set-up and the major policies of the Union. This has been accomplished through a number of enlargement rounds, which the first section of the chapter analyses in detail. This is followed by a review of the enlargement process itself, with a focus on the use of conditionality and the role of the main actors involved. The contributions of neo-functionalism, liberal intergovernmentalism, and social constructivism to explaining the EU’s geographical expansion are evaluated in the third section of the chapter. The success and prospect of future enlargement are discussed in the context of wider EU developments, especially the effect of the economic crisis in the euro area, ‘enlargement fatigue’, the domestic context in the candidate countries, and Brexit.

Chapter

Cover Global Politics

4. Critical Approaches to Global Politics  

This chapter investigates critical approaches to global politics. While liberal and realist theorists probe each other’s ideas for faults and weaknesses, neither have challenged capitalism and its implications for social, economic, and political order. Marxism, on the other hand, which developed around the mid-nineteenth century, has provided very different perspectives and presents a significant challenge for mainstream approaches to global order in both theory and practice. Post-Marxist Critical Theory, along with historical sociology and world-systems theory, emerged in the twentieth century, giving rise to schools of thought which continue the critique of capitalism and the social and political forces underpinning it. Meanwhile, ideas arising from social theory, such as the extent to which perceptions of reality are socially conditioned and indeed ‘constructed’, achieved greater prominence following the end of the Cold War, an event which prompted many scholars to start asking new questions about global politics and the assumptions on which traditional theories rested. Constructivism, postmodernism, and poststructuralism remain concerned with issues of power and justice but provide different lenses through which these issues may be viewed in the sphere of global politics.

Chapter

Cover Global Political Economy

3. How to think about Global Political Economy  

Benjamin J. Cohen

This chapter examines the question of how we should think about Global Political Economy (GPE), and offers a multitude of theoretical approaches and perspectives. Perspectives can be distinguished from one another along five key dimensions: ontology, agenda, purpose, boundaries, and epistemology. At the most general level, the field is divided between two broad approaches, described as either orthodox or heterodox theoretical perspectives. Orthodox perspectives share a preference for a state-centric ontology, positivism, closed disciplinary boundaries, and rigorous methodology. They may be subdivided into three main variations: liberalism, realism, and constructivism. Heterodox perspectives are less state-centric, agendas are broader and more normative, boundaries are more open, and methodology is less formal. They include a variety of system-level theories, critical theory, and approaches that seek to extend the boundaries of the field in one direction or another. Fundamentally, our thinking about GPE should be ruled by two paramount principles: pragmatism and eclecticism.

Chapter

Cover Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Ontology  

Eric Fabri

This chapter addresses ontology, which is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature of being. As a branch of metaphysics, ontology is mainly concerned with the modes of existence of different entities (tangible and intangible). Every subdiscipline in the social sciences relies on an ontology that defines which elements really matter when it comes to explaining the phenomenon they set out to elucidate. A specific branch of ontology is devoted to the modes of existence of social phenomena: social ontology. Two main positions emerge: realism and constructivism. Scientific realism assumes that social phenomena have an objective existence, independent of the subject. By contrast, constructivism claims that social phenomena have no objective existence and are a construction of the human mind. Its fundamental axiom is that, even if reality exists outside the subject’s perception, the subject cannot reach it without perceiving it. This implies the mediation of imaginary structures, which are provided by social groups. It is important to note, however, that many other positions exist apart from realism and constructivism.

Chapter

Cover US Foreign Policy

11. Identities and US foreign policy  

Christina Rowley and Jutta Weldes

This chapter examines the role of identity in constructing U.S. foreign policy. Using a critical social constructivist approach, it argues that particular conceptions of U.S. identity constitute U.S. interests, thus providing the foundations for foreign policy. After providing an overview of the influence of interests on foreign policy, the chapter considers the basic assumptions of critical social constructivism, taking into account the social construction of reality and the concepts of discourse and articulation. It then analyses discourses as sites of power, identity, and representation, along with the importance of identity in U.S. foreign policy. It also looks at U.S. presidents’ articulations of state identity and foreign policy over the last six decades.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights

Introduction  

Michael Goodhart

This introductory chapter explores the field of human rights, considering it first as a field of enquiry that can be interrogated through both normative and empirical approaches. The chapter goes on to consider the theories and practices of human rights, including liberalist, legal positivist, and social constructivist theories. The chapter then briefly considers the international human rights regime and ends with an introduction to the rest of the book.

Chapter

Cover International Relations and the European Union

3. The European Union and Theories of International Relations  

Filippo Andreatta and Lorenzo Zambernardi

This chapter looks at theoretical answers to two major questions arising from the emergence of the European Union (EU) on the world stage. Firstly, what have the causes of European integration been in general, and in the foreign policy field in particular? Taking note of the fact that prevailing schools of international politics assume that states do not easily give up their sovereignty, classical and recent theoretical approaches to International Relations (realism, liberalism, and constructivism) have struggled to find the motives for integration and incorporate them in their overall frameworks. Secondly, the chapter investigates theoretical interpretations of the consequences of European integration for international relations in Europe and in the wider world. The chapter concludes by focusing on the idea and reality of the EU as a major power in international politics.

Chapter

Cover The Globalization of World Politics

13. Social constructivism  

Michael Barnett

This chapter examines constructivist approaches to international relations theory. It explores whether there is a possibility of moral progress in world politics, whether some cultures and countries are more (or less) inherently violent, and whether states are motivated by power or by ideas. The chapter also discusses the rise of constructivism and some key concepts of constructivism, including the agent–structure problem, holism, idealism, individualism, materialism, and rational choice. It concludes with an analysis of constructivist assumptions about global change. Two case studies are presented, one relating to social construction of refugees and the 2015 European migration crisis, and the other considers what it means to be a ‘victim’.

Chapter

Cover European Integration Theory

7. Social Constructivism and European Integration  

Thomas Risse

The chapter presents a short overview on social constructivism as a distinct research programme and shows what it contributes to the study of European integration. Social constructivism represents a meta-theory or an ontology, not one more substantive theory of European integration. The substantive contribution of social constructivism to the various theories of European integration is to insist on taking meaning construction, discourse, and language seriously, and to point out the mutual constitution of agency and structure. Moreover, social constructivism emphasizes the constitutive features of social institutions including the EU as not just constraining behaviour, but also affecting the identities, interests, and preferences of actors. The chapter then uses the question of European identity to illustrate empirically social constructivism ‘at work’. A constructivist account of the euro and the migration crises demonstrates that European political leaders reacted largely to the mobilization of exclusive-nationalist identities by (mostly) right-wing populist parties and movements. In sum, the social constructivist research programme in EU studies has quickly left the stage of meta-theorizing and concern for ontology and epistemology behind, and has now entered the realm of concrete empirical work dealing with real puzzles of European political life.

Chapter

Cover International Relations and the European Union

20. Acting for Europe  

Reassessing the European Union’s Role in International Relations

This chapter summarizes the volume's major findings and revisits the three perspectives on the European Union: as a system of international relations, as a participant in wider international processes, and as a power in the world. It also considers the usefulness of the three main theoretical approaches in international relations as applied to the EU's external relations: realism, liberalism, and constructivism. Furthermore, it emphasizes three things which it is clear the EU is not, in terms of its international role: it is not a straightforward ‘pole’ in a multipolar system; it is not merely a subordinate subsystem of Western capitalism, and/or a province of an American world empire, as claimed by both the anti-globalization movement and the jihadists; it is not a channel by which political agency is surrendering to the forces of functionalism and globalization. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the EU's positive contributions to international politics.

Chapter

Cover International Relations and the European Union

4. The European Union as a Power  

Filippo Andreatta and Lorenzo Zambernardi

This chapter focuses on the European Union as a ‘power’ on the world stage. The persistent inability to develop a truly common foreign and security policy may raise serious doubts about the idea of the EU as a major ‘power’. However, the concept and reality of power should not be confused with the threat or the use of coercive force alone. The chapter first considers the elusive concept of power before discussing the distinction between ‘destructive’, ‘productive’, and ‘integrative’ power and connecting them to realism, liberalism, and constructivism, respectively. It then considers the role of Europe in the world and concludes with an overview of factors affecting the prospects for a European foreign policy.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

Introduction: Diversity and Disciplinarity in International Relations Theory  

Steve Smith

This text argues that theory is central to explaining International Relations (IR) and that the discipline of IR is much more relevant to the world of international relations than it has been at any point in its history. Some chapters cover distinct IR theories ranging from realism/structural realism to liberalism/neoliberalism, the English school, constructivism, Marxism, critical theory, feminism, poststructuralism, green theory, and postcolonialism. Oher chapters explore International Relations theory and its relationship to social science, normative theory, globalization, and the discipline’s identity. This introduction explains why this edition has chosen to cover these theories, reflects on international theory and its relationship to the world, and considers the kind of assumptions about theory that underlie each of the approaches.

Chapter

Cover International Relations Theories

9. Constructivism  

K. M. Fierke

This chapter examines the key debates that have shaped the development of constructivism in International Relations (IR). It first considers the idea that international relations is a social construction, as it emerged from the critique of more traditional theories of IR. It then explores the distinctions among various constructivisms, with particular emphasis on the contrast between those who seek a ‘better’ social science, and hence better theory, versus those who argue that constructivism is an approach that rests on assumptions at odds with those of positivist method. The chapter proceeds by discussing constructivists’ critique of rationalism, along with constructivism as a ‘middle ground’ between rationalist and poststructuralist approaches to IR. It also analyses the role of language and causality in the debate between rationalists and constructivists. Finally, it links all these insights to the War on Terror and the war on Covid-19.

Chapter

Cover International Relations of the Middle East

1. International Relations Theory and the Middle East  

Fred H. Lawson

This chapter discusses the different theories and approaches that characterize the study of international relations. Mainstream theories focus on the ways that states interact with one another in circumstances where no overarching authority governs their behavior — in other words, under conditions of anarchy. These theories include structural realism, neoliberal institutionalism, and the scholarship on relational contracting. An important alternative perspective — the English School — argues that, even under anarchic conditions, there is a high degree of orderliness in world affairs. Meanwhile, proponents of constructivism assert that states take shape in specific historical contexts, and that the conditions under which states coalesce and become socialized to one another play a crucial role in determining how they conceive of themselves and formulate their basic interests. Scholars of the Middle East have so far addressed only a fraction of the many theoretical debates and controversies that energize the field of international relations.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

18. Critical Approaches to Global Politics  

Stephanie Lawson

This chapter examines seven critical approaches to global politics: Marxism, Critical Theory, constructivism, feminism, postmodernism, postcolonial theory, and green theory. In their book The Manifesto of the Communist Party, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels address the implications for global order of the rise of capitalism and the role of the bourgeoisie as controllers of capital. Their ideas have had a major influence on critical approaches to virtually all aspects of both domestic and global politics. The chapter considers some major strands of Marxist-influenced theory of direct relevance to global politics, including dependency theory, world-system theory, Gramscian theory, and Frankfurt School theory. It also discusses gender theory and compares postmodern/poststructural approaches to global politics with Critical Theory and constructivism in International Relations.

Chapter

Cover Global Politics

1. Introduction Myth-Making  

This chapter introduces the concept of myth-making and global politics. It begins by explaining how myths about global politics disempower us because they rest on convention, established power relations, and particular interests that should be questioned. One way of overcoming limiting myths about global politics is to adopt a similar critical orientation towards the academic disciplines and theories we use to study global politics. These include the ‘traditional’ and ‘critical’ theories of International Relations, such as Liberalism, Realism, Constructivism, Marxism, Feminism, Postcolonial Theory, and Poststructuralism. The chapter then outlines specific myths and mysteries, before introducing the idea of ‘everyday global politics’. It also explores theoretical thinking, asks why students should be encouraged to theorise from the start of their studies, and why the myths upon which intuitive understandings of politics are based are a good place to start this theorising.