Article

Constructivism

Jonathan Cristol

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online March 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0061
Constructivism

Preview

Constructivist theory emerged in the mid-1990s as a serious challenge to the dominant realist and liberal theoretical paradigms. The theory was not popularized until Wendt 1992 (a direct challenge to neorealism) and Katzenstein 1996 (cited under Identity) made it a staple of international relations (IR) syllabi around the world. The theory’s relatively recent arrival on the scene makes a constructivist canon somewhat harder to identify and makes the inclusion or exclusion of particular sources in this bibliography a potentially much greater source of contention than in the articles on realism and liberalism. Constructivist theory emphasizes the meanings that are assigned to material objects, rather than the mere existence of the objects themselves. For example, a nuclear weapon in the United Kingdom and a nuclear weapon in North Korea may be materially identical (though, so far, they are not) but they possess radically different meanings for the United States. The belief that reality is socially constructed leads constructivists to place a greater role on norm development, identity, and ideational power than the other major theoretical paradigms. Indeed, norms, identity, and ideas are key factors in constructivist theory. The relationship between critical IR theory or feminist IR theory and constructivist IR theory are contested. Some critical and feminist theorists could mount an argument that each deserves its own article. However, for better or worse, the mainstream of the field situates both within a constructivist paradigm, as they share certain key features that are common to constructivism and are distinct from realism and liberalism. In addition, it could be argued that the “English School” belongs in this section. However, the placement of the English School in a solely realist, liberal, or constructivist framework could be considered quite controversial, as it has elements of all three paradigms. Therefore, the section on the English School is contained in the International Relations Theory article, and more extensively in the International Society article.

Article.  10305 words. 

Subjects: international relations

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