POS360_constructivism_Fall2011 - POS360 Fall 2011...

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1 POS360 Fall 2011 Constructivism So what do we know so far about IR? The Feld of IR formally began after the ±irst World War. Debates between idealism and realism began almost immediately within the Feld. The Frst “great debate” in the Feld was between EH Carr and nameless idealists. Realism, with special thanks to the more “scientiFc” contributions of neorealism, seemed to take center-stage in the study of international politics. Nonetheless, realism (in its various forms) and idealism (in its various forms) are generally regarded as the “mainstream” or most popular conceptual frameworks in the Feld of IR. Realism and idealism were (and are) popular approaches in the study of IR. By the 1980s, however, scholars began to wonder if there wasn’t another approach or way of looking at international politics. That is, neorealism and neoliberal institutionalism (the popular approaches in the early 1980s) emphasized the unwavering pursuit by states of power and wealth. This was interesting, but scholars began to wonder if world politics was more complex than just the idea of states pursuing wealth and military strength. How else could we view international politics? What did these mainstream approaches neglect to study? Constructivism Constructivism o f ered an alternative to the so-called mainstream approaches. Of course, constructivism is now a readily accepted and respected conceptual framework within the Feld of IR. However, in the early 1980s it seemed somewhat radical. Like realism and idealism, there are many strands of constructivism: Wendtian constructivism Radical constructivism Postmodernism Poststructuralism Postcolonialism ±eminism And many other forms
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2 These approaches are quite di f erent and, thus, it is di F cult to discuss constructivism as one distinct conceptual framework. Keep that in mind as you read along. What I describe is the general overview to this approach. If you Fnd it interesting, I suggest you take additional courses in political science (and also anthropology, cultural studies, feminism, Flm studies, etc.) that examine constructivism in more detail. As for this lecture, we will not discuss all variants of constructivism. In this lecture we will examine Wendtian constructivism (generally regarded as a conservative form of constructivism) and radical constructivism (generally associated with postmodernism). In a future lecture we will discuss feminism (another form of constructivism). Introduction Unlike realism and idealism, constructivism focuses primarily on the importance of ideas and culture in shaping our understanding of international politics. Constructivists argue that traditional theories of IR are inherently subjective and merely re±ect the biases and motivations of the people who created the theories in the Frst place. ²or example, early realists like Morgenthau were infatuated with science and scientiFc progress. He wanted to shape the study of IR to re±ect these aims. Later
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POS360_constructivism_Fall2011 - POS360 Fall 2011...

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