March 19, 2013 CONSTRUCTIVISM, REALISM AND LIBERALISM DISCUSSIONS Arguments over the relationship of constructivism to realism and liberal theory. Two argue that constructivism is and can be a variant of liberalism, and one argues it can be compatible with realism. This is in part because these two argue that constructivism is not a separate, stand alone theoretical paradigm. One argues that if correctly understood, constructivism is a separate, stand alone paradigm and is distinct not just from realism but also from liberal theory. STERLING-FOLKER: BIRDS OF A FEATHER There is not substantive difference between liberal international organizational theory and constructivism. They are both variants of liberal theory. This being the case, there is really nothing new that constructivism contributes as an allegedly new research paradigm– provides no alternative to liberal theory, uses the same functional causal understanding, and tends to reproduce liberal arguments, conclusions and predictions BIRDS OF A FEATHER This is unfortunate because the early theoretical promise of constructivism was quite different. In drawing upon postmodernism, it initially appeared to provide an alternative to the teleological and constricted rationalism of liberal theory. But instead of using postmodernism it revitalize IR theory, it has validated liberal theory by conventionalizing postmodernism to reify modernism and reinforce the mechanism of functional institutional efficiency that is used as the explanation for international change in liberal international organization theory. In doing so, it neither challenges that theory nor provides ways out of the problems IO theory faces in accounting for the stubborn persistence of the state. BIRDS OF A FEATHER IO theory: Holds that the pursuit of common interests leads to the organization of international efforts in the form of narrowly tailored international institutions. The degree to which these institutions are successful in pursuing those interests determines the level of desire for them and their survival. BIRDS OF A FEATHER This analysis assumes that the state is the problem not the answer to common interests. National institutions have to be transcended in order for those interests to be effectively pursued, thus the demand for international institutions Thus institutions are created by means of a process in which the environment is dominant, in that the select institutions based on the latter’s abilities to effectively pursue preexisting common interests. Here, interests are taken as they are and held constant Identity, if addressed in this analysis, comes last, as the result of the functioning of institutions. It is assumed that people can easily switch their identities to new international institutions. NEOLIBERAL INSTITUTIONALISM A reaction to the failure of the original form of international institutionalism to explain the continued vitality of the state. Abandoned the teleological assumption that depicted international institutions as the inevitable end point of a functional process by positing that different environments informed by states importantly shape the process. States therefore are still seen as barriers to international cooperation, but this time because it is held that elites are unable to grasp the superior functionality of international institutions, and instead stubbornly hold to an outmoded unilateralism for pursuing interests. NEOLIBERAL INSTITUTIONALISM This resistance is said to be overcome through the learning that comes about thanks to the success of international cooperation. What continues to be important to this variant is the central role played by the pursuit of common interests rather than social practices and domestic institutions that may give elites their original identities. CONSTRUCTIVISM Also employs a functionalist logic because it also joins the assumption of pre-set collective interests with the power of external environments to shape outcomes, including institutions and practices, which in turn create norms and identities. It is still an historical process privileging efficiency that creates norms and identities. These collective interests, in the form of security, pursuit of a better life, etc) are immune to change through social interaction in this analysis, acting instead as a set of foundational assumptions in which it is social practices that are transformed in response to the recognition of dysfunction, rather than social practices that transform understandings of interests and recognition that a set of circumstances constitutes “dysfunction”– Wendt, Ruggie. CONSTRUCTIVISM AS A VARIANT OF LIBERAL FUNCTIONALISM Argues that changing beliefs and perceptions will make international cooperation more likely Interaction is the environment that produces such changes, including changes in identity, just as do the variants of liberal functionalists Neofunctionalists: success of regional cooperation will lead elites to abandon exclusivist national identities Neoinstitutionalists: success of cooperation will lead elites to abandon unilateralism Constructivists: interaction will lead to a change of national identity that will equate the nation with a larger collective entity, LIBERAL INSTITUTIONALISM AS CONSTRUCTIVISM The commonality also works the other way around because at a later point in their analysis, some neoliberal institutionalists also hold that international regimes and practices, when they are established and taken for granted, can changes the ways people perceive their interests by adapting to the regimes established rules and norms, no matter their efficiency. BARKIN: REALIST CONSTRUCTIVISM Constructivism not necessarily incompatible with classical realism, but could act as a complement to it, balancing realism’s focus on power with a focus on norms and ideas as morality in the way Carr originally envisioned a comprehensive understanding of IR. But practitioners err when they attempt to establish it as a stand-alone theoretical paradigm able to explain the universe of IR. As misleading by itself as is neorealism. REALIST CONSTRUCTIVISM The problem that has prevented the combination of realism with constructivism is that practitioners have incorrect ideas about the traditions: Constructivists equate realism with a narrow rationalism and strict materialism Realists associate constructivism with a naïve idealism and utopianism. CONSTRUCTIVISM AND REALISM Constructivism: approach that focuses on the social construction of international order, holding that such an order is not an objective entity based on material factors, but an intersubjective social reality in which actions interests, and structures are defined by social norms and ideas. CONSTRUCTIVISM AND REALISM Realism: the importance of power in international relations, whether it be in the form of power structures or the persistence of structures. Additional factors such as the centrality of the state and survival are also associated with power. However, a focus on material capabilities not a core realist concept, only a focus some realists use. The rationality realists in general use is not a narrow one, as in rational choice theory, but a general one in which it is assumed that leaders act rationally in the sense that they tend to act consistently. CONSTRUCTIVIST VIEWS OF REALISM Thus many constructivists, in understanding realism in general as focusing on material capabilities and assuming they view human nature as materialist, are mistaken. Realism as a whole is compatible with a wide range of understandings of human nature, bounded by the rejection of the notion that humans are perfectible and the acceptance of the assumption that there will always be humans who want to accumulate power. Nor are all realists positivists. Classical realists did not accept the fact that the world is a rational place and grasped the problems such a characteristic poses for attempting to rationally understand the world. CONSTRUCTIVISM, IDEALISM AND UTOPIANISM The real argument is between exclusive views of realism and a focus on morality, norms and ideas. Classical realists objected to the liberal argument that because humans have consistent and reasonable preferences, this provides the basis for building international institutions that allow people to pursue interests without interfering with one another, and that the success of these institutions will appeal to human reasonableness such that they will eschew power politics, leading to Kant’s perpetual peace. REALISTS But realists hold that peace is powerfully contextual, involving the resolving of highly particular problems that often arise precisely through the resolution of prior problems. This is because the resolution of any problem will not benefit everyone equally– in fact, some will lose. It is in this context, in influencing who wins and loses, that power will always play a role even in the presence of international institutions whose aim is to foster cooperation and resolve differences peacefully. CLASSICAL REALISTS But that doesn’t mean that classical realists like Carr did not recognize the importance of norms and morality for governing behavior and molding the perceptions of interests. He held that humans are moral beings and will not accept the exercise of power unless they judge it legitimate, and require morality to direct power. His objection and his use of the label of utopianism was leveled at the liberal argument that a situation could arise in which morality and norms could completely displace power. That, he held, could never happen and it would be a mistake to try to make it happen by relying only upon the building of institutions and relying upon norms and morality. CONSTRUCTIVISM Constructivism should share this view, and Wendt and others, in acknowledging the importance of power, explicitly held they were, in that sense, realists. But not everyone holds to such common assumptions. Democratic Peace Theory, in holding that a world filled with democracies will abolish war and power politics, is one of theory that does not. CONSTRUCTIVISM It is true that most constructivist now work in the liberal paradigm, pursuing projects that are important to liberal theory and taking for granted liberal norms and goals. But that need not be the case. Can create a realist constructivist research agenda that explores the interaction of norms and power, in the sense that they affect change in one another. STEELE-- LIBERAL IDEALISM: A CONSTRUCTIVIST CRITIQUE Constructivism correctly understood neither liberal nor idealistic despite attempts to label it as such and attempts by some constructivist to create connections with rationalist theories. It is important to make this case and distinguish constructivism from other approaches because of the important insights it brings even though constructivism is a loose research paradigm with several variations. GENERAL CONSTRUCTIVIST UNDERSTANDINGS The world is held together by social ideas and intersubjective understandings which constitute and are constituted by social identities, whether individual or collective Thus states are actors that are aware of their identities and seek to perpetuate them Norms are endogenous entities that come into being through the action and practices of states are not independent of social action. CONSTRUCTIVIST UNDERSTANDINGS Whiles states the most important international actors, they are not the only ones Only through intersubjective understandings of agents do materials come to be recognized as resources that help states and others achieve goals. Steele’s variant stresses that international politics are the product of structures created and recreated by humans, and that humans being selfaware agents, the study of IR can have an impact on IR– no separation between observer and object. The study of IR can create epistemic philosophies that affect state behavior and can be used by states to justify their activities, thus making those activities legitimate. Example: references by officials to DPT as uncovering a law of democratic peace. Thus he rejects a positivist rendering of constructivism and focuses on the importance of processes as much as outcomes, and differentiates his constructivism from DPT, which has roots in positivism in focusing on outcomes. SIMILARITIES OF SOME TYPES OF CONSTRUCTIVISM TO LIBERAL THEORY Can share concepts of progress as well as importance of ideas, institutions and domestic politics Functionalist tendency to equate process with linearity and inevitability. However: Other variants see states as self-aware actors which look for legitimate structures– thus an analysis that emphasizes contingency and pluralistic outcomes Liberals tend to look at outcomes as the explanation for intentions, while constructivists look to see how the perceived legitimacy of processes influence outcomes. SOURCES OF CONFUSION Overlap in objects of research by constructivists and liberals (security communities, human rights, multi-lateralism), but former do so as a way of illustrating how those concepts influence the behavior of states, not in terms of proposing normative goals for states. Attempts by realists to label constructivism as idealism and utopian as a way of dismissing it, thereby categorizing it similarly with liberalism. But again true constructivists look at norms and moral codes as influencing the way states behave, not as normatively desirable things. Rationalists also sometimes appropriate constructivist focus on norms, but do so in a positivist fashion and thereby cut off the important reflexive element constructivist understand as making norms important. Instead, rationalists see norms as an independent variable. DIFFERENCES WITH DPT DPT a typical liberal theory in its status as a positivist theory that points to the objective working of the world towards a desirable normative end. Assumes: Democracy a universal good that is pursued by rational states Because it is universal, it can be studied scientifically, i.e., through a positivist mode that assumes a separation of subject and object. Thus assumes that in studying the effects of the spread of democracy on peace that it does not affect the workings of states: DPT only observes and explains, but does not affect the process. CONSTRUCTIVISM Constructivism rejects these assumptions, particularly the last. Problem exemplified in the Bush administration’s use of DPT as a justification for the Gulf War– more democracies increases the likelihood of peace. Iraq war about democratization. Was successful in this use because DPT has become an accepted part of discourse that conveys legitimacy: encapsulates scientific findings Thus rather than standing aloof from events, or the findings of DPT being self-fulfilling and self-reinforcing (as some practitioners argue), DPT became self-negating, and it is constructivism, not DPT, other liberal understandings or realism, that is able to explain this CONSTRUCTIVISM Thus come to understand through constructivism that the study of IR events not like the epidemiological study of diseases, as the DPT practitioners would have it.