Social Constructivism. Introduction Social Constructivist – Last of the four major theories in IR Born when the Cold War died Gaining momentum and popularity

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  • Social Constructivism

  • Introduction Social ConstructivistLast of the four major theories in IRBorn when the Cold War diedGaining momentum and popularityDefined Studies how ideas and social movements impact and change international relationsStudies International Structure Structure is some thing that exist independently of an actor (ie. Class structure), but is an important determinant in the actions of the actor (ie. Class Revolution)Shapes identities, interest, and foreign/domestic polices of states How states and non-states shape and reshape world

  • What is a Social Theory?Social Constructivism Substantive TheoryOffers specific claims and hypotheses about patterns in world politicsRealism, Liberalism, Marxism, etcOffers absolute/precise analysis and evaluations Not Constructivism Social TheoryBroadly concerned with how to conceptualize the relationship between agents and structuresConstructivism Offers overall interpretations of existing systemNot Realism, Liberalism, Marxism, etc

  • Core Elements IdealismHolds that ideas have important causal effect on events in international politics, and that ideas can change Social consciousness = fundamental feature of society People = shaped by ideas = knowledge, symbols, language and rules. Meaning and construction of material reality is dependent on ideas and interpretationsHolism Structures cannot be broken down to the individual units, and the interactions between the individual parts, because structures are more than the sum of their parts and, as a result, cannot be reduced

  • Main Constructivist Tenets Social Construction of Reality Actors are produced and created by their cultural environment Indicates how knowledge, symbols, rules, concepts, etc shapes how individuals construct and interpret their worldSocial FactsThings whose existence is dependent on human agreementExistence defines shapes how we categorize the world and what we doMoney, treaties, human rights, laws, etc Opposite Brute Facts = exist independent of human agreement and will continue to exist even if humans disappear or deny their existence Oceans, gravity, the sun, a rock, etc

  • Continue Logic of ConsequencesAttributes action to the anticipated costs and benefits, mindful that other actors are doing just the sameRealism, Marxism, Liberalism, etc Logic of AppropriatenessHighlights how actors are rule-following, worrying about whether their actions are legitimateConstructivism MeaningValue actors place on their action and the objects they construct

  • Continue CultureProvides the meaning that people give their action Society (international and domestic) is diverse, then there are multiple meanings that can be interpreted by an actionPolitics Today = liberals vs. conservatives or state and non-state actors Power Adds to traditional definition of powerForces of power go beyond material (economic or military), can be ideational (forming/entertaining Ideas)Legitimacy = sought by states = more legitimate an action the more international approval received States alter action to receive legitimacy

  • ContinueKnowledge is PowerHow knowledge, the fixing of meanings, and the construction of identities allocate different rewards and capacities Reject Unity of Science ThesisMethods of studying the natural world are not appropriate for understanding the social worldHumans reflect on their experience and use these experiences to change their behavior, the natural world does not

  • ContinueCausality and ExplanationInsist that structures can have a causal impact because they make possible (or limit) certain kinds of behavior and thus generate certain tendencies in the international system

  • Rational Choice Social Theory that offers a framework for understanding how actors operate with fixed preferences which they attempt to maximize under a set of constraintsConflicts with SC, Demonstrates not all social theories are similar Treats interest as fixed, SC treats as constructed by environment and interactions Favors Logic of consequences, SC favors logic of appropriateness SC studies normative structure and RC focuses on strategic behavior

  • Global ChangeSocial ConstructivismUseful in explaining global changeNon-Social Theories have difficult time explaining change because of their fixed absolute interpretations of world affairs Homogenization of World Politics Is there a World Order?DiffusionHow particular models, practices, norms, strategies, or beliefs spread within a population (domestic or international)

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  • ContinueDiffusion and NormsDiffusion leads to international recognized norms = Internationalization of norms Provide world with established standards of behaviorStates follow norms because of sense of community or fear of retribution Life Cycle of Norms Norm emergenceNorm promoted by group or issues and adopted by stateNorm Cascade Norm crusaders socialize to other states through coercions or competition Norm Internationalization accepted by all an no longer debated in IS

  • Continue Three consequences of Institutional Isomorphism and Internationalization of Norms Diversity has slowly yielded to conformity Not al conformity is altruistic Deepening sense of an International CommunityGlobalization and advancement in technology Replacing Anarchy as boarders become obsolete Socialization States/societies take on identities and interest of dominate peer groupDiffusion Flow = First to Third World

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