Constructivism as a Theory of International Politics

-        social reality is constructed by our understandings of it


Questions Explored

-        asks constitutive questions as well as causal ones

o     How-possible? What? v. How? Why?

-        what are ‘great powers’ and ‘rogue states’?

-        what are ‘sovereign territorial states’?

-        how are identities formed?

-        what are interests?

-        how do identities shape interests?

-        why do materially similar states behave differently?

-        how is it possible for security dilemmas to become security communities emerge?

-        what are norms, principles, and rules?

-        why do state comply with some norms and not others?


Categorizing Constructivism

-        statist constructivists (Wendt)

o     state has a ‘personality’ and effective agency

o     ideational structure


-        transnational constructivists

o     states are not agents



Key Assumptions


International order is anarchic, but anarchy is what states make of it

-        relations are not determined by anarchic structure


International relations are ‘inter-subjective’

-        states and other actors are subjects, not objects

-        more than ‘strategic interdependence’

-        shared understandings as inter-subjective knowledge


Agents and structures ‘mutually constitute’ one another

-        no ‘ontological priority’ to agents or structures

-        non-reductive approach

-        not a causal or temporal issue


Structures are social and material

-        distribution of material power is not the sole meaning of structure

-        norms, rules, and principles can structure relations – distribution of ideas’



Leading Hypothesis (Causal Mode)


Relations of amity and enmity emerge out of experienced interactions

-        contra realism, dist. of power does not create ‘power struggles’

-        contra liberalism, interests are not separate from identities





Constitutive Mechanisms


Structuration (Giddens)

-        changes in structure emerging out of interaction of agents

-        changes in agents’ conduct emerging out of structure


Collective Intentionality (Searle)

-        shared understandings as other than sum of individual understandings

o     human rights beliefs


Normative Transposition (Sewell)

-        apply norm in one context to another


Causal Mechanisms


Norm Internalization/Socialization

-        logic of appropriateness v. logic of consequences

-        norms regulate behavior

-        norms as appropriate conduct for given identity


Cultural Affinity

-        shared identity creates shared interests

-        not consequentialist process



-        communication of ideas, not reconciliation of interests