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World Politics Lecture 10 Constructivism

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Courtney Thomas

on 20 July 2016

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Transcript of World Politics Lecture 10 Constructivism

photo credit Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli
World Politics Lecture 10
The Construction
Social Construction of Reality
Agents are produced and created by their cultural environment
Nurture (not nature)
State desires v. State needs
Epistemology shapes ontology
Knowledge such as symbols, rules, concepts, categories, etc. shape how agents construct and interpret the world
Social facts
Exist because we agree upon them (sovereignty, human rights, currency, etc.)

The Charge
Question everything—particularly anything naturalized in the discourse of international relations
“age old hatreds”
“natural rights”
The “nation” and the “state”
The things we take for granted as natural are usually social constructions
De-construction is an attempt to trace these social constructions back to their inception
Focus on contingencies, on history, NOT nature

Key Assertions
Alexander Wendt: “anarchy is what states make of it”
The system exists through a series of recursive constitutive actions and interactions among agents
Enmity, rivalry, friendship
Max Weber: “we are cultural beings with the capacity and the will to take a deliberate attitude toward the world and to lend it significance”
Culture informs the meanings that people give to their action

The Role of Power
Meanings become fixed through international relations and/or world politics
Once fixed, these meanings have a wide array of consequences
What is “genocide”?
Power is the power to fix meaning

The Strength of Constructivism
Constructivism challenges us to question everything, to be critical consumers of history, politics, media, and culture
The Weakness of Constructivism
Constructivism is the worst theory of international politics
Full transcript