The Hague University of Applied Sciences
28 March 2018
Title (Question): What are the main assumptions, principles, and arguments of constructivism as an IR theory?
Assignment Number: 5
Question Number : 1
Essay number (Part Mark): Essay 1 (Part A)Essay 2 (Part B)
Name: Laetitia Brouwer
Student Number: 16025466
Year: Year 2ES4/Exchange student/Higher year
What is the definition of Constructivism? According to CITATION Ber66 l 1043 (Berger & Luckmann, 1966) Constructivism is ‘the process through which facts, knowledge, and truth are discovered, made known, reaffirmed, and altered by the members of society.’ Constructivism explores how, through action, the world is made and re-made, it explores how the structures of world politics form interests, practices, and identities of the actors of world politics and not solely restrain it. How unintentionally or purposely these structures are recreated by the actors of world politics, and finally, how the responsibility for stability and change in world affairs lies with human action CITATION Bar17 p 144 l 1043 (Barnett, 2017, p. 144). Moreover, many different visions are generated by Constructivism, such as: other ways of thinking about power, ‘the role of norms for explaining the rise and decline of world orders’, and how important transnational movements and alternate non-state actors are in the internationalisation of global politics CITATION Bar17 p 144 l 1043 (Barnett, 2017, p. 144). According to Barnett (2017, p.146), in the 1990s Constructivism became very popular as a result of two factors. First, people who disagreed began to make visible and meaningful certain key elements. While, the social elements of human activity had been made invisible and unimportant by mainstream IR, it was argued that the inclusion of constructivists was central for comprehending the behaviour of state and non-state actors and understanding ‘why they saw the world as they did’. The second factor was the end of the cold war. The peaceful end of the cold war was incomprehensible for neorealist and neoliberal institutions. They had expected the war to end ‘with a bang’. Constructivism was perfect for understanding what would have never come to mind to most scholars. Furthermore, after the cold war states, neorealist, and neoliberal institution did not know how to think, ‘Constructivism was offering a fresh take on the world at a time when the world was in need of new ways of thinking.’ CITATION Bar17 p 146 l 1043 (Barnett, 2017, p. 146).
What are the main assumptions of Constructivism? ‘Social constructivism is based on specific assumptions about reality, knowledge, and learning.’ (Kim, n.d., p. 3). One of the assumptions of constructivists is the assumption that ‘the individual mind generates knowledge by creating knowledge structures and mental models which represent world and mediate – or filter – information.’ CITATION Tal04 p 83 l 1043 (Talja, Tuominen, & Savolainen, 2004, p. 83). In addition, according to Talja, Tuominen, & Savolainen (2004, p. 84), another assumption of constructivism is that researchers will gain access to mental models by analysing behaviour or responses (language). According to Prawat & Floden (1994, p. 37) the important assumption that knowledge is a social product is an assumption that all constructivist agree on, however they agree on little more than just that assumption. Namely they agree on another important assumption, this assumption is, as stated by Prawat & Floden (1994, p.37), the notion that ‘knowledge evolves through a process of negotiation within discourse of communities and that the products of this activity – like those of any other human activity – are influenced by cultural and historical factors.’ Finally, according to constructivism (n.d.) an assumption of constructivism is that ‘All human learning is constructed in a context where some type of mediational means, tools and/or signs, are used.’ Even though members of a culture may create a sign or tool in order to find a solution to a problem, the development of said sign or tool revises their participation within the culture. In addition, members of a culture may create a certain tool in order to achieve a certain goal, however this tool may change the culture CITATION Con18 l 1043 (Constructivism, n.d.).
What are the main principles of Constructivism? Constructivists are curious about how agents generate structures and how actors clarify their material reality, and they are focussed on the practices situated between agents and structures. In addition, constructivists consider ideas as structural factors, factors that influence how the world is defined by actors. Furthermore, constructivists are worried about the awareness and knowledge of humans, and they consider as a consequence, of how material reality is interpreted by doctors, the dynamic relationship between ideas and material forces CITATION Bar17 p 153 l 1043 (Barnett, 2017, p. 153). Furthermore, according to Wendt (1999, p. 1) two basic beliefs of constructivism have been increasingly accepted by students of international politics. The first belief is that the human association’s structures are primarily determined by shared ideas rather than material forces. This represents an ‘idealist’ approach to social life, furthermore, because of the importance that is put on sharing ideas, it is also ‘social’ in a way the opposite view’s stress on technology, biology, and the environment is not; the ‘materialist’ view’s emphasis. The second tenet is that instead of the interests and identities of deliberate actors is given by nature, they are constructed by said shared ideas. This approach is more a ‘holist’ or ‘structuralist’, because the emergent powers of social structures us emphasised, which opposes the view that social structures are reducible to individuals, the ‘individualist’ view.
What are the main arguments of Constructivism? ‘There are a number of arguments that constructivists make that differs from realists and liberalists.’ (Constructivism (International Relations) §2). The realist position that anarchy innately leads to competition and war is a position constructivists do not agree with. From the perspective of constructivists, the anarchical system is whatever actors wish for it to be. In this manner, there is not any reason that anarchy may bring out war, or peace. A major role is played by the actors on how the system is interpreted by them. In addition, over time, it is possible for their positions to evolve and shift. Moreover, ‘constructivists allow for attention regarding the “making” of the conditions; actors do not respond to “given” conditions, they create them.’ (Constructivism (International Relations) §3-4). Finally, according to Kukla (2000, p.4), the people who name themselves constructivists tend to argue every once in a while for a ‘metaphysical’ thesis about the facts of the world, sometimes for an ‘epistemological’ thesis which concerns what could be known about the world, and also for a ‘semantic’ thesis, which questions what could be said about the world.
BIBLIOGRAPHYBarnett, M. (2017). Social Constructivism. In J. Baylis, S. Smith, ; P. Owens, The Globalization of World Politics An introduction to International Relations (pp. 144-158). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Berger, P. L., ; Luckmann, T. (1966). The Social Construction of Reality . Anchor Books.
Constructivism. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2018, from http://www.personal.psu.edu/wlm103/insys581/const/assum.html
Constructivism (International Relations). (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2018, from International Relations.org: http://internationalrelations.org/constructivism_in_international_relations/
Kim, B. (n.d. ). assumptions of Social Constructivism. In Social Constructivism. Retrieved March 26, 2018, from http://cmapsconverted.ihmc.us/rid=1N5QXBJZF-20SG67F-32D4/Kim%20Social%20constructivism.pdf
Kukla, A. (2000). defining constructivism. In Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Science. London: Routledge. Retrieved March 26, 2018, from file:///C:/Users/lnrbr/Downloads/9781134567393_googlepreview%20(1).pdf
Prawat, R. S., ; Floden, R. E. (1994). Philosophical perspectives on constructivist views of learning. In Educational Psychology (pp. 37-48). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Robert_Floden/publication/243777968_Philosophical_perspectives_on_constructivist_views_of_learning/links/55cb536408aea2d9bdce2446/Philosophical-perspectives-on-constructivist-views-of-learning.pdf
Talja, S., Tuominen, K., ; Savolainen, R. (2004). Cognitive constructivism. In “Isms” in information science: constructivism, collectivism and constructionism (pp. 83-85). Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/44762202/Isms_in_information_science_Constructivi20160415-25348-1nbepqt.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A;Expires=1522082271;Signature=UTTwhRg%2BwDLDWTfQ2nlRMe1AupI%3D;response-content-disposition=inli
Wendt, A. (1999). Four sociologies of international politics. In Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge University press. Retrieved March 26, 2018, from https://books.google.nl/books?hl=nl;lr=;id=s2xjEd0ww2sC;oi=fnd;pg=PR13;dq=%27principles%27+of+the+social+theory+constructivism;ots=UEmBzgE7QA;sig=iZtOXSIP6sW_zv1sRb7S4lGaQZg#v=onepage;q;f=false