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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 Global Politics

3. Power  

This chapter explores power within global politics by challenging the myth that power is a coercive force that elite actors utilise to promote their interests. It also expounds on Steven Lukes’ ‘three faces of power’ debate to clarify how power works at both obvious and hidden levels. The chapter then introduces the concept of power relations and how they influence the political world and people’s opinions and values. It also discusses how power produces knowledge, social norms, and identities. Finally, the chapter uncovers some of the subtle ways power influences the everyday lives of people, and how an awareness of power relations raises the possibility of resistance and change in global politics.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

17. Children’s Human Rights Advocacy  

Vanessa Pupavac

This chapter examines some theoretical and practical problems in global children's rights advocacy. It begins with a discussion of the novelty of children's rights and the problem of identifying the moral agent of children's rights. It then considers the tensions between the universalism of human rights advocacy and the relativism of development advocacy. It shows that children's rights research is influenced by social constructivism, which highlights the history of childhood and childhood norms. Early social constructivist approaches identified the concept of childhood underpinning the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a Western construction based on Western experiences and its exclusion of the experience of childhood in developing countries. The chapter proceeds by looking at a case study involving attempts to eradicate corporal punishment of children globally. It suggests that there are social and political problems with attempting to globalize childhood norms without globalizing material development.