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Article

Most constructivist work in IR has attempted to account for very general outcomes in the international system, most notably the well-known research of Alexander Wendt. Whether we live in a “Kantian,” “Lockean,” or “Hobbesian” world, for instance, is in a sense a socially constructed thing rather than flowing from some inevitable structure or theory of human nature. Nevertheless, some important constructivist work has focused on more specific foreign policy outcomes, research that is examined here in depth. Constructivist analyses tend to focus on “how possible” questions rather than attempting to “explain” particular decisions, and this offers a useful addition or corrective to more traditional analyses of foreign policy. They also attempt to understand the general foreign policy orientations of states, often relying on notions of culture, role, and identity. But such approaches have not yet fully matured into comprehensive approaches to foreign policy, in at least two senses. First of all, current constructivist approaches are somewhat limited by a focus on the social dimensions of foreign policy rather than individual ones, being sociological rather than psychological in nature. This is sometimes not an issue, but it becomes a problem when variation between decision makers with the same social identity is the object of interest or where norms are in conflict with one another. Secondly, there have been relatively few attempts to turn constructivism into a normative theory. Arguably, in order to become a fully rounded theory (as opposed to a loose framework), constructivism needs a mechanism by which it can influence actual decision makers, very few of whom currently describe themselves in opinion polls as being constructivists, as opposed to realists or liberals. And yet both of these problems can potentially be remedied. Firstly, constructivist approaches may be combined with psychological approaches that supplement their sociological focus. Both constructivism and the psychological approach to decision making are ideational in nature rather than material; in other words, they share the belief that what people think is “out there” is often more important than what actually is. Indeed, the psychological approach to foreign policy provided a major source of inspiration for the early constructivists. Secondly, constructivist approaches can offer policy makers prescriptive advice as to how they should or ought to behave. After reviewing the literature on understanding foreign policy outcomes, this article suggests the outlines of an applied constructivism that decision makers in government would find positively useful. There is a Realpolitik and an Idealpolitik, but can there be a “Konstruktpolitik”? At least six principles might guide the development of normative constructivism. Chief among these is the axiom, “if you can’t change the physical, change the social.” Other principles include the effort to initiate “norm cascades,” the encouragement (or discouragement) of self-fulfilling beliefs and self-negating beliefs, acceptance of the role of agency, and the conscious use of argument and language as tools of persuasion.

Article

International norms exist as constraints on foreign policy, yet norms are also the product of the foreign policies of states and other actors. Research has demonstrated how norms restrain foreign policy choice and behavior, and even alter state conceptions of national interests. Other studies point to the weakness of norms in the face of national interests and state power. Others note that the meaning of norms and their obligations are often contested, leading to problems of norm violation and norm enforcement. As social constructions, an important consideration is how and when foreign policy promotes norms and norm diffusion in the broader international community.

Article

For much of the history of the study of international relations, and of foreign policy as a distinctive subfield, scholars have debated the relative weight of agency and structure in shaping the course of international events. Often, the significance of agency versus structure depends on the scope of inquiry. Efforts to identify broad patterns of social interaction tend to play up the significance of structure, while studies of specific events bring agency to the fore. International relations theory is typically associated with the former, and foreign policy analysis (FPA) is more closely linked to the latter. That association suggests that the question of agency versus structure in international outcomes is settled in FPA in favor of agency. An assessment of the literature in FPA shows such a suggestion to be wide of the mark. Not only does FPA struggle with the question of agency versus structure that pervades the study of international relations generally, but also it wrestles with how to reconcile agency and structure in the context of psychological constraints on human cognition. Thus, rather than resolving the debate between agency and structure, the literature on FPA shows that it extends down to the level of individual policymakers. The debate over the role of agency and structure occupies two axes. The first is the engagement of FPA with broader debates over agency and structure in international relations scholarship. The second is the tension between agency and structure in FPA that emerges once psychology is incorporated into the analytical matrix. In both cases, the significance of structure in the actual analysis of foreign policy is far greater than common conception recognizes. This reality means that FPA represents the cutting edge for theoretical and analytical efforts to understand the relationship between structure and agency in international outcomes.

Article

Srdjan Vucetic

Identity has come to figure prominently in the study of foreign policy since the 1990s when it was first introduced by constructivist theorists in International Relations. Consensus on what identity is and what it does in relation to foreign policy does not exist and is unlikely to be ever forged. Some scholars investigate state identity—how it impacts foreign policy processes while simultaneously being impacted by international structures. Others use the concept of identification to examine what foreign policy means for the constitution of modern political subjectivities. Still others seek to bring together constructivist identity scholarship together with more established approaches in Foreign Policy Analysis. This article considers the contextual emergence and evolution of the “identity and foreign policy” scholarship in its many different and differing streams. The large volume of literature produced on this subject over the past two and a half decades defies an easy summary of its theoretical and empirical contributions, but an overview of the main controversies and debates should provide the reader with a solid foundation for further research.

Article

Latin America is usually referred to as a homogeneous region that shares a collective identity based on common history, language and culture in general. As a result, it is broadly expected that collective identity should underpin and facilitate regional integration among Latin American states. However, the idea of a Latin American identity can be problematized, arguing that the concept of “Latin America” is more an exclusionary one than an integrator. Moreover, addressing collective identity as a social construction among state elites reveals the political disputes that lay at the backdrop of regionalism as a political enterprise. The relationship between identity and regionalism in Latin America can be discussed using a study of the role of collective identity in the unfolding of three case studies of the Andean Community. A constructivist approach can be engaged to show that it is possible to observe three dimensions of collective identity in the Andean Community, whose interplay led to advancing regionalism in certain ways but also caused disagreements and failures. Instead of taking a simplistic view of identity as the sharing of similarities, disentangling collective identity into cultural, ideological, and intergroup dimensions helps in understanding that identity is mostly a political issue and therefore a disputed one, and that analyzing the relationship between these three dimensions contributes to explaining the unfolding of regionalism in terms of advance and stagnation.

Article

Like all decision making, foreign policy decision making (FPDM) requires transferring meaning from one representation to another. Since the end of the Cold War, students of FPDM have focused increasingly on historical analogies and, to a lesser extent, conceptual metaphors to explain how this transference works. Drawing on converging evidence from the cognitive sciences, as well as careful case studies of foreign policymaking, they’ve shown analogy and metaphor to be much more than “cheap talk.” Instead, metaphor and analogy are intrinsic to policymakers’ cognition. This article traces the development of this growing literature. So far, FPDM has treated analogy and metaphor separately. It has also paid far more attention to the former than the latter. By contrast, the article argues that analogy and metaphor are not only similar, they are equally essential to cognition. It defines and compares metaphor and analogy, analyzes their socio-cognitive functions in decision making, and charts the evolution of analogy and metaphor research in FPDM. It also suggests the utility of a constructivist-cognitive synthesis for future work in this area.

Article

Richard Ned Lebow and Simon Reich

American realists, liberals, journalists, and policymakers speak of American hegemony as if it were an established role, although a threatened one given the rise of China. They describe hegemony as essential to international political and economic stability, and a role that only America can perform. These claims are highly questionable, as there is no evidence that the United States is a hegemon nor that it has provided the benefits American international relations theorists attribute to a hegemon. To the extent these benefits are provided, it is the result of the collective efforts of numerous states, by no means all of them great powers. American assertions of hegemony are viewed with jaundiced, if not hostile, eyes by other states. Hegemony is a fiction, propagated by Americans to gain special privileges, justify an interventionist foreign policy, support the defense industry, and buttress national self-esteem. In practice, the quest for hegemony is a threat, not a prop, to the global order.

Article

The question of theoretical dominance has been the source of longstanding debates in the field of International Relations (IR). The folklore of the field tells of how realism fell from dominance and was replaced by liberalism in the 1990s. The systematic evidence, however, shows that neither theory was as dominant as many claimed. While the early period of postwar IR was dominated by realism, the past 35 years can be characterized by its plurality of theories. This plurality of theories, however, may not reflect a diverse field. Diversity denotes some degree of variation within an interacting community or system. Meaningful interactions between distinct research sects in IR appear to be very rare, as characterized by the so-called paradigm wars. Instead of a diverse field, IR may be characterized as insular, Balkanized sects that are hostile to differing theories and approaches.

Article

Consideration of the relationship between political theory and foreign policy must confront stark realities a quarter century after the 1991 liberal-democratic victory in the Cold War, which established the first global order in history. The foreign policies of the liberal democracies, and the liberal global order, now are beset by confusion, division, and retreat in the face of illiberal powers. A wave of nationalism and suspicion of globalized elites compounds the failure by America, the leading liberal democracy, to forge a consensus grand strategy to replace the Cold War strategy of American internationalism and containment of Communism. While important scholarship in comparative political theory addresses foreign policy, and while there are other important foci for the theory-policy nexus, such as China or the Islamic world, this failure to develop a new strategy to undergird global order and manage globalization is the most pressing issue for political theory in relation to foreign policy. Scholars should inquire whether the policy failures of the past quarter century stem not only from policymakers but also from the divisions among schools of international relations and foreign policy—and especially from the abstract, dogmatic quality of these theories. A more productive theory-policy nexus is evident in the rediscovery of the transdisciplinary tradition of grand strategy, which offers a more balanced approach to theory and its role in guiding policy. A new grand strategy for our globalized era would manage and sustain the powerful processes and forces set in motion by liberal states that now are eluding guidance from any widely recognized and effective rules. Four important critiques since 1991 discern a disservice to foreign policy by the high theory of the international relations schools. These schools—including realism, liberal internationalism, and constructivism—and their policy guidance are discussed elsewhere. The first two critiques arise from contemporary international relations and foreign policy approaches: scholars addressing the gap between high theory and practitioners, and Chris Brown and David A. Lake assessing the extremes of high theory that prove unhelpful for guiding sound foreign policies and practical judgement. The final two critiques transcend recent social science to rediscover fundamentals presupposed by the first two, by quarrying the philosophical tradition on international affairs from the ancient Greeks to modernity. This line of analysis points to recent work by the leading embodiment of the theory-policy nexus in the past half-century, Henry Kissinger—because his book World Order (2014) turns from realism to a more balanced view of interests and ideals in the policies of liberal democracies. Kissinger confronts the vexing reality of the need for reasonable states, across civilizational traditions, to forge a basic global order to replace the crumbling liberal order. His approach is grand strategy, now made comparative and global, as both more profound and effective for theorists and practitioners. Further, the tradition of American grand strategy is an important resource for all the liberal democracies now committed to this policy effort. Since the Washington administration, a balanced approach of discerning America’s enlightened self-interest has been the core of its successful grand strategies. This is not pragmatism, given the philosophical roots of this liberal disposition in the moderate Enlightenment jurists Grotius and Montesquieu. An era of confusion and failure should provoke reconsideration of fundamentals. Rediscovery of enlightened self-interest and its call for statesmanlike judgement offers a fruitful theory-policy nexus for the liberal democracies and for restoration of a basic global order.

Article

Ulrich Franke and Gunther Hellmann

This article examines scholarship in the field of foreign policy analysis inspired by the philosophy and social theory of American Pragmatism. Pragmatism is reconstructed as a unified theory of human thought and action emphasizing the primacy of practice and situated creativity. It has been largely ignored in International Relations (IR), in general, and foreign policy analysis (FPA), in particular, during the 20th century. Given the fact that pragmatism is widely taken to be one of the few genuinely “American” social theories, its marginal role in IR scholarship is astounding since the discipline has rightly been characterized as an “American social science” (S. Hoffmann). Against this background the article highlights one of the prominent disciplinary dualisms, the distinction between “systemic” theories of international politics/relations on the one hand and “sub-systemic” foreign policy analyses on the other. It does so, however, as an entry point for a different perspective. Pragmatist thought entered the field in the mid-1990s at a moment when increasing numbers of scholars felt uneasy about this dualism because it severed human agency from internally connected transformations at the global level of political interaction. The proliferation of paradigmatist scholarship about German foreign policy after the country’s unification in 1990 illustrates both how established “paradigms” grappled with “change” and “continuity” in German foreign policy and how pragmatism was mobilized as a theoretical resource in order to respond to this challenge. Pragmatism is a distinctive social theory that starts with what people do (primacy of practice) and that conceives of theories as tools for coping. Rather than distinguishing between thought (or theory) on the one hand and action (or practice) on the other as separate activities, pragmatism emphasizes the unity of all problem-solving forms of “inquiry” (J. Dewey). Inquiry removes doubt and enables us to form beliefs (as “rules for action”). Methodologically this understanding translates into a rejection of the separation of “theory” and “subject matter” in favor of empirically grounded reconstructive approaches. In addition to pragmatist perspectives on epistemology and methodology, the article highlights different ways of substantive theorizing in IR/FPA such as habits, practices, and loyalties but also normative accounts.

Article

Arms control is a strategy by governments to overcome the security dilemma with institutionalized cooperation. It comes in three versions, arms control proper, with stability as the main objective; non-proliferation as a sub-category of arms control, so understood with the main objective being to preserve the distributive status quo concerning certain weapon types; and disarmament, with the objective to eliminate a specific weapon type. Confidence building is a crosscutting functional concept lumping together many different measures that can serve all three versions. Arms control does not reject self-help as a basis of national security, but entrusts a significant piece of it to cooperation with potential enemies. Hence, arms control—with the exception of unilateral, hegemonic arms control imposed on others, and of non-proliferation for preserving an existing oligopoly—is a difficult subject for realism and neorealism, but also for post-modernism. It presents a solvable puzzle for rationalists and no problem at all for constructivists who, to the contrary, can dig into norms, discourses, and identities. Concerning stability and change, arms control can be looked at from two opposite perspectives. Since it aims at stability, critical security approaches have labeled it as a conservative, status quo orientated strategy. But there is also a transformational perspective: arms control as a vehicle to induce and reinforce a fundamental redefinition of the relationship between states. Naturally, the concept of disarmament shows the greatest affinity to the transformational perspective. A related issue is whether arms control is a result of political circumstances, a dependent variable without a political impact of its own, or whether it has causal effect on interstate relations. Constructivism proposes a dialectical relationship in which arms control and broader policy influence each other. From this reflection, the question of the conditions of success and failure flows naturally. Conducive interstate relations (or extrinsic shocks), technology, domestic structures, learning, leadership, perception, and ideology have been candidates for the independent master variable. Three models tackle the relationship of arms control and historical time: the enlightenment intuition of steady progress; a series of waves, each of which leaves the world in a more cooperative state than the previous one; and the circle—arms control ebbs and flows alternatively, but achievements are fully lost in each ebb period. We can distinguish four arms control discourses: arms control as the maiden of deterrence; arms control subordinated to defense needs; arms control under the imperative of disarmament; and arms control as the instrument of human security, the survival and well-being of human individuals, notably civilians. As with all politics, arms control involves justice issues: the distribution of values (security/power), access to participation in decision making, and the granting of recognition as legitimate actor. Arms control negotiations are ripe with justice claims, and failure through incompatible justice demands happens frequently. Also, emotions play a key role: frustration and ensuing resentment, anger, and existential fear can prevent success. Finally, compassion, empathy, and trust are ingredients in successful arms control processes.

Article

Paul F. Diehl and Gary Goertz

Few theoretical formulations are specifically devoted to accounting for peace, as opposed to war. Nevertheless, the occurrence of peace requires a different explanation than that for war. There are multiple conceptual definitions of peace, and to a significant extent these lead to different theoretical explanations. Peace, except for its “negative peace” variant, fits poorly into various “grand” international relations theories such as realism, liberalism, and constructivism. Nevertheless, there is a relatively small, but emerging, middle-level set of theoretical works that directly addresses the transformation of hostile relations to peaceful ones, in both negative and positive varieties.

Article

Carolyn M. Warner and Stephen G. Walker

Despite the increased attention to religion in international relations, questions remain about the role of religion in the foreign policies of states. Extrapolating from theories in the fields of international relations and comparative politics is a fruitful strategy to explore religion’s potential avenues of influence on foreign policy. There are also potential methodological tools of analysis in these fields, which can be fruitfully applied to understand the role of religion in foreign policy. Contributions from the field of religion and politics may be used to frame applications of such theories as realism, constructivism, liberalism, and bounded rationality to specify further hypotheses about religion and foreign policy. The potential of these theoretical approaches from international relations to the analysis of religion has not yet been exploited fully although it is clear that there are promising signs of progress.

Article

In 1952, Frank L. Klingberg identified U.S. foreign policy moods since 1776 as alternating between an average of 21 years of introversion and 27 years of extroversion. The last extrovert phase had started in 1940, and it changed to introversion by 1968. By 1989, extroversion had returned. By 2016, it looks like introversion came back again. This is an excellent record of projection that calls for increased research by scholars. In 1985, Jack Holmes related Klingberg’s moods to American Liberalism and argued that mood changes were required by tendencies of introversion and extroversion to reach extremes too far removed from the realist interests that a nation must pursue. Frank was kind enough to write the preface of my 1985 work, and we continued to meet annually at conventions to explore research possibilities through the last two decades of his life. Although he was from the liberal pre-WW II generation and I was from the realist post-WW II generation, we shared a common interest in American foreign policy moods since 1776 and the need for research by the community of scholars. What do these moods mean? They consider one liberal democratic country while it grew from a peripheral power to a superpower over 240 years, and additional research regarding other countries would be beneficial. Given the concentration of major U.S. foreign policy assertiveness during extrovert phases as well as surprises and changes during mood transitions, moods need to be researched until they become part of the regular conversation regarding American Foreign Policy and IR theory. The evidence is strong and has been mostly developed by two authors. Klingberg deserves full credit for the original research and idea. The evidence has been expanded and placed in context by Holmes who analyzed Klingberg’s original idea as two different liberal preferences of the American people and related it to interests of nations. This liberal foreign policy variation (between introversion and extroversion) differs from the domestic policy variation (between reform liberal [often called liberal] and business liberal [often called conservative]) variation mentioned by Samuel Huntington in 1957. While individual domestic policy preferences usually stay the same, the United States as a whole varies on its introvert or extrovert foreign policy preference. Additional research on these moods is needed to enrich the literature.

Article

Most of the world has experienced a revolutionary and unprecedented development over the course of the last century and especially since the end of the Second World War: significant population aging. By any standard measure—median age, the number of 60- or 65-year-olds and over as a percentage of a population, or old-age dependency ratios (the ratio of seniors to working-age adults), most of the world is significantly older today than in the middle of the 20th century, and the trend is accelerating. The world’s great powers have not been immune to this trend. To the contrary, many of these countries have been leading the way, aging faster and to a greater extent than most other countries. By 2050, the median age of China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States will be at least 40. Germany and Japan are currently two of the oldest countries in the world, and China is likely aging faster than any other country in history. How is the near worldwide phenomenon of population aging likely to affect international relations (IR)? Most scholars who have examined this issue have linked the potential effects created by aging to established IR theories. Most analyses that have developed around the issue of aging, in other words, have not created new theoretical approaches to the study of international politics. They have instead argued that aging is likely to affect key variables associated with existing IR theories, which will then tend to generate particular outcomes based on these theories’ predictions. The IR theories that studies of populating aging have most frequently tied into include ones from realist, diversionary war, and constructivist research programs. Many of the arguments that link the effects of aging to these theories reach opposite conclusions, with some predicting a much higher probability of international conflict due to aging, others the reverse. There are, however, very few empirical analyses that test these competing hypotheses, largely because aging is such a new phenomenon.

Article

Friedrich Kratochwil

Constructivism in the social sciences has known several ups and downs over the last decades. It was rather early successful in sociology but hotly contested in international relations. Oddly enough, just at the moments it made important inroads into the research agenda and also became accepted by the mainstream, the enthusiasm for it waned, and many constructivists—as did mainstream scholars—moved from the concerns of “grand theory” or even “meta-theory” toward “normal science,” or experimented with other (eclectic) approaches, of which the “turn to practice” is perhaps the latest manifestation. In a way, constructivism was “successful” on the one hand by introducing norms, norm-dynamics, and diffusion; the role of new actors in world politics; and the changing role of institutions into the debates, while losing, on the other hand, much of its critical potential. The latter survived only on the fringes—and in Europe more than in the United States. The Copenhagen school, building on the speech act theory, engendered at least a principled discussion of security studies, even if its use of speech acts was too simplistic. In the United States constructivism soon became “mainstreamed” by having its analysis of norms reduced to “variable research.” Similarly, while the “life cycle of norms” apparently inevitably led to norm cascades and “boomerangs,” “norm death,” strangely enough, never made the research agenda, despite the obvious empirical evidence (preventive strikes, unlawful combatants, drone strikes, extrajudicial killings etc.). The elective affinity of constructivism and humanitarianism seemed to have transformed the former into the enlightenment project of “progress,” where a hidden (or not so hidden) teleology of history à la Kant tends to overwhelm the analysis and thus prevents a serious conceptual engagement with both law and (inter-) national politics. This bowdlerization of constructivism is further buttressed by the fact that none of the “leading” U.S. departments has a constructivist on board, ensuring thereby the narrowness of conceptual and methodological choices to which the future “professionals” are exposed. The engagement with concepts and language, which “first generation” constructivists introduced, is displaced again by “ideal theory” (both in terms of deductive reasoning based on “unrealistic” assumptions and in the “clarification” of abstract principles à la Rawls), or by the search for “algorithms” hidden in “big data.”